Published: Fri, April 14, 2017
Science | By Kerry Wheeler

Is there life on Saturn's ocean-bearing moon Enceladus?

These exist on the floor of the Earth's oceans, too, where the chemically charged water supports a rich ecology of microbes and other, more complex, life forms - requiring no sunlight.

During a news conference in Washington D.C. NASA said findings by the Cassini spacecraft and Hubble telescope identified Jupiter and Saturn's moons as ocean worlds.

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

The hydrogen found "speaks to the habitability" of the moon, Voytek says.

Lovely satellite images of India, as seen from space at night, have been released by NASA as part of its trove of new global maps of the Earth.

"This distant moon now joins Mars and Europa as the best potential locations for life beyond Earth in our solar system", said Andrew Coates, a professor of physics at University College London.

The Cassini spacecraft detected the hydrogen in the plume of gas and icy material spraying from Enceladus during its last, and deepest, dive through the plume on October 28, 2015. The Cassini spacecraft was created to sniff the atmospheres of some of the celestial bodies it was going to visit. The data show about 1 percent of the plume material is hydrogen.

NASA will make an announcement Thursday about new discoveries the agency says will help in the search for life in space. If we were able to prove that it hosts life, it would be highly likely that such life had originated there, independently of life on Earth.

Scientists have found a potential food source for microbes on one of Saturn's tiny moons-and that could dramatically increase the chance of finding life beyond Earth, CBC reports.

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Detecting hydrogen "really represents a capstone finding for the mission", Spilker said.

"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".

Waite said the hydrogen is likely produced "by chemical reactions between warm water and rocks". And part of that could be that we think Enceladus might be fairly young.

"It's warm on the inside, where there's a large body of liquid water". If there are indeed microbes living in the moon's ocean, they could tap that energy source as sustenance. "We haven't discovered organisms, but I am encouraged by the results".

Cassini is virtually out of fuel after an enormously successful mission.

"Repeatability gives us a lot more faith", Sparks said. "Cassini has got to be put safely away, and. the only choice was to destroy it in some controlled fashion".

In case you're wondering, according to the New York Times, their next major planetary mission will be to the previously mentioned Europa in the 2020s, via the cleverly named Europa Clipper. The Titan flyby will set up the first of 22 passes on April 26. In September, Cassini will plunge straight into Saturn, burning up nearly as soon as it hits the gas giant's atmosphere.

During Galileo's mission, researchers noted what appeared to be cracks in the icy surface of Europa. The plume extended about 100 kilometers (62 miles) above the surface. Just two years later, that ship will be followed by a lander, complete with an ice drill and perhaps a small robotic submarine to swim through any extraterrestrial waters the drill might reach.

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