Lunes, 23 Julio, 2018

Astronomers Find Habitable Zone in Saturn's Moon

Montez Delgado | 16 Abril, 2017, 15:24

NASA's Cassini spacecraft said the icy, ocean-covered body possesses ample amounts of hydrogen gas.

The research is published a paper in the journal Science and it is noted that hydrogen gas is a potential "chemical energy source for life" and has been found present in the plumes.

A graphic illustration of how water interacts with rocks on the ocean-bed of Saturn's moon, Enceladus.

The Cassini probe - a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and Italy's ASI space agency - will now undergo a course correction to enable it to study Saturn's rings before being plunged into the gas giant's atmosphere in September, ending its 13-year mission to explore the distant planet and its 62 known moons.

Associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Tomas Zurbuchen, said: "These results demonstrate the interconnected nature of NASA's science missions that are getting us closer to answering whether we are indeed alone or not".

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Molecular hydrogen was detected in the ice plumes erupting from the moon's surface in October 2015 when Cassini passed through the plumes, skimming just 49 kilometers (30 miles) above the moon's surface collecting samples.

One ingredient found that led to the groundbreaking theory is hydrogen gas, which is abundantly spewed from a plume.

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

Enceladus is the sixth largest moon of Saturn. Could life exist out there, in our solar system?

"[The] fact that that we can measure such high concentrations of hydrogen and carbon dioxide mean that there might not be life there at all, and if there is life, it's not very active".

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Not only that, but the plumes on Enceladus are associated with hotter regions on the moon. The other two necessary ingredients are liquid water and the right chemical ingredients, primarily; carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur.

"With this finding, Cassini has shown that Enceladus - a small, icy moon a billion miles farther from the sun than Earth - has almost all of these ingredients for habitability", NASA said in a statement announcing the findings. The plumes include 1 percent hydrogen and the remainder is a combination of molecules such as ammonia, carbon di oxide, and methane.

"We now know that Enceladus has nearly all of the ingredients you would need for life here on Earth", Spilker added. They found that plumed were bursting or were erupting from Europa, which is a moon of Jupiter.

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.

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