Saturn moon Enceladus could sustain alien life


Life as we know it on Earth requires liquid water, a source of chemical energy to support metabolism, and the right mix of ingredients including oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, phosphorous and sulfur.

It means Enceladus may have the same single-celled organisms which began life on Earth, or more complex life still. Either way the implications are profound.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, called Saturn's moon Enceladus "the closest we've come" to identifying a planet with the necessary ingredients for a habitable planet. However, in a major breakthrough, two of NASA's veteran missions have found compelling evidence of life on one of Saturn's moon Enceladus. Water is believed to exist on three Saturn moons as well, Enceladus, Titan, and Mimas.

The gas was sniffed by Cassini, a spacecraft launched in 1997 that has been orbiting and studying the prominently ringed planet and its moons for years.

This posed an exciting prospect - researchers wondered whether that warm ocean might be interacting with rock to create a form of chemical energy that could be used by some forms of life.

"We know that the four requirements for life as we know it are liquid water, the right chemistry, a source of energy and enough time for life to develop". But its detectors were turned towards Jupiter's icy moon Enceladus post discovering the emission of the towering plume of icy spray in 2015. In case you are wondering how Hydrogen even comes into the picture at all, the process through which microbes break hydrogen and produce methane is expected to be a sure shot indication of the presence of life and indeed, many believe that the process was fundamental in sustaining life on our earth as well.

This finding led to the conclusion that microbes on the moon can get energy through a process known as methanogenesis - which is carried out by combining hydrogen with carbon dioxide present in water.

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Like Enceladus, Jupiter's moon Europa is thought to have an ocean under an icy crust.

Update: NASA's Hubble telescope was also able to find evidence of an erupting plume back in 2016 during its orbit, further confirming the findings of Cassini's mission as legit.

As for Jupiter's moon Europa, the observation is less definitive and more remote, coming from the Hubble Space Telescope.

According to a report from Phys Org, scientists from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) discovered hydrogen erupting from the surface of Enceladus. "Chemical disequilibrium that is known to support microbial life in Earth's deep oceans is also available to support life in the Enceladus ocean". "It would be like a candy store for microbes", stated Hunter Waite, lead Cassini researcher. If the plumes really do exist, they could provide scientists with samples of Europas seawater.

Could there be life under the icy surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus?

On Thursday, NASA scientists said they have detected evidence that this kind of chemical reaction is likely occurring under the surface of Enceladus. Both correspond to the location of an unusually warm region that contains features that appear to be cracks in the moon's icy crust, seen in the late 1990s by NASA's Galileo spacecraft. The plume's reach was apparently 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Europa's surface.