Last week NASA announced its most amazing find about the Saturnian moon to date. The very real possibility of life.

Two years ago the space probe Cassini entered Saturn’s orbit and began its detailed survey of the planet, its rings and its moons. Two moons Titan, and Enceladus, were of great interest because they seem to be geologically active.

Titan with its mysterious atmosphere was later penetrated by the Cassini Huygens probe to discover lakes of hydro carbons on its icy surface.

One of the missions Cassini performed was a flyby of the moon Enceladus. This mysterious ice-covered moon featured cracks that shifted over time hinting at a liquid ocean beneath the surface. Another feature revealed by the flyby was enormous plumes of water that ejected into space from the moons southern pole further evidence of a geothermally active world.

Over the following months, the probe would make multiple flybys through the plumes to analyse and collect data.

Last week NASA made a startling announcement of the presence of hydrogen and carbon dioxide in the plumes.

Why hydrogen? In order for hydrogen to be created there needs to be an energy source in the core of the moon warming water into a chemical reaction with the rocks on the ocean bottom.   Furthermore, hydrogen when combined with carbon dioxide forms methane, a possible food source for microbes. The very same reaction seen here on Earth.

What’s next? It is too early for NASA to make any announcements of future projects but several have been proposed over the years that include a closer examination of the plumes and an eventual robotic probe.

Further Reading:

Titan – Wikipedia

Enceladus Hydrothermal Vents

Ocean Worlds- The Quest for Life

Astronaut: NASA discovery sparks my dream of intelligent life beyond Earth

Enceladus Life Finder

 

 

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