A remarkable new discovery on one of the more than 60 moons orbiting Saturn could be a huge new lead in the search for life.
NASA scientists have just spotted something on one of Saturn’s moons that could be a game-changer in mankind’s search for alien life. They have reportedly found hydrothermal vents on the moon Enceladus that are similar to ones at the bottoms of our own oceans, which is where scientists believe life on our planet began.
Scientists with NASA’s Cassini mission have conducted a chemical analysis of the plume and have determined that conditions are favorable for methanogenesis, which refers to the process in which microbes eat hydrogen and carbon dioxide and emit methane. Ice plumes on Enceladus appear to have molecular hydrogen, which would have come from hydrothermal vents.
Confirmation of this discovery would be a huge step forward in finding alien life in our solar system, and it makes Enceladus a prime candidate for further exploration.
“Hydrogen is a source of chemical energy for microbes that live in the Earth’s oceans near hydrothermal vents,” said SwRI’s Dr. Hunter Waite, principal investigator of Cassini’s Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS). “Our results indicate the same chemical energy source is present in the ocean of Enceladus. We have not found evidence of the presence of microbial life in the ocean of Enceladus, but the discovery of hydrogen gas and the evidence for ongoing hydrothermal activity offer a tantalizing suggestion that habitable conditions could exist beneath the moon’s icy crust.”
“The amount of molecular hydrogen we detected is high enough to support microbes similar to those that live near hydrothermal vents on Earth,” said SwRI’s Dr. Christopher Glein, a co-author on the paper and a pioneer of extraterrestrial chemical oceanography. “If similar organisms are present in Enceladus, they could ‘burn’ the hydrogen to obtain energy for chemosynthesis, which could conceivably serve as a foundation for a larger ecosystem.”