NASA Announcement: Saturn's Moon 'Enceladus' Can Host Alien Life!

NASA's press release explained that microbes - if there are any that exist there - could combine hydrogen with carbon dioxide dissolved in water to obtain energy.

This graphic illustrates how Cassini scientists think water interacts with rock at the bottom of the ocean of Saturn's icy moon Enceladus, producing hydrogen gas. They also informed about Jupiter's moon Europa erupting plumes.

The consequent chemical reaction known as methanogenesis, which creates methane as a byproduct, is "at the root of the tree of life" on our planet and could have been crucial to the origin of life on Earth.

The scientists noted that "life as we know it requires three primary ingredients": liquid water, a source of energy for metabolism, and a combination of chemical ingredients that include hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen, among others.

According to Cassini mission researchers, hydrogen gas - a building block of life - has been detected pouring into the subsurface of the ocean of Enceladus as an outcome of the activity taking place on its seafloor.

This is the closest scientists have come to identifying a place having the ingredients for life, said Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of the NASA Science Mission Directorate.

"Confirmation that the chemical energy for life exists within the ocean of a small moon of Saturn is an important milestone in our search for habitable worlds beyond Earth", said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

How Did The Cassini Spacecraft Detect Hydrogen?

From these observations scientists were able to find that almost 98 percent of the gas in the plume is water, about 1 percent is hydrogen and the remaining is a mixture of other molecules including carbon dioxide, methane and ammonia. These organisms could be the foundation of a larger ecosystem in Saturn's moon.

On its last deep dive past the moon in October 2015, the spacecraft measured the chemical composition of one of the vapour plumes using its Mass Spectrometer (INMS) instrument - which sniffs gases to determine their make-up.

Though the findings did not provide any direct evidence for supporting life forms, the researchers note that the discovery has shared the presence of a food source for the microbes, which would possibly be like a "candy store" for them.

"Enceladus is high on the list in the solar system for showing habitable conditions", said Hunter Waite, the lead author of the study."There is chemical potential to support microbial systems".

NASA's Planetary Science Division Director, James Green, said: "We're pushing the frontiers".

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