NewsFix in Space: NASA announces possible life on another planet

NASA has announced that Enceladus has habitable conditions, making it the first known celestial world in the Solar System that can support life apart from Earth.

Cassini's findings also show that levels of carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane measured in the Enceladus plume were out of equilibrium, an imbalance that could provide an energy source that organisms could tap into for food, according to a paper published Thursday in the journal Science.

Zurbuchen added that the missions were getting humans closer to understanding whether they were "indeed alone or not".

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. "Because we now know that Enceladus has nearly all of the ingredients you would need to support life as we know it on Earth".

In a related perspective, Jeffrey Seewald of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who was not involved in the study, described the findings as "an important advance in assessing the habitability of Enceladus". They also informed about Jupiter's moon Europa erupting plumes.

Life on Saturn? Maybe not, but one of its moons, Enceladus, seems to be potentially habitable. But its detectors were turned towards Jupiter's icy moon Enceladus post discovering the emission of the towering plume of icy spray in 2015.

Researchers believe that three ingredients are needed for supporting life on earth water, organic molecules and a source of energy.

Professor David Rothery, professor of planetary geosciences at The Open University, said: 'We have now got all the ingredients we need to support life on Enceladus. In laymen's terms, Enceladus could have hydrothermal vents that are similar to those found on Earth. The map is based on observations by the Galileo spacecraft. These images bolster evidence that the Europa plumes could be a real phenomenon, flaring up intermittently in the same region on the moon's surface.

The plume was 62-miles high and occurred near the moon's equator in February.

The decision to end the mission was made in 2010, in order to avoid damaging moons like Enceladus, which could be explored for signs of life in the future. The Hubble space telescope is observing Europa from a distance for evidence of plumes of water, similar to the ones seen on Enceladus. He led the 2014 and 2016 plume studies.

In 2015, researchers said that there was evidence of a warm ocean under the moon's surface, as NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reported. With ice on its surface and steamy reactions happening at its core, that means there's a huge range of water temperatures in between, which substantially increases the chances that life could be supported there.

"Most of us would be excited with any life", said Mary Voytek, an astrobiology senior scientist for NASA. Close-up measurements will have to wait until the 2020s when NASA plans to launch missions whose entire objective is investigating Europa.

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