Sci-tech

Saturn's moon may be "like a candy store for microbes"

Saturn's moon may be

Cassini's mission ends in September, when the probe will descend into Saturn's atmosphere, sending back as much data as it can before it is destroyed by the heat and pressure.

United States space agency NASA published the findings obtained by the Cassini spacecraft and the Hubble Space Telescope, indicating that conditions in which life may develop have been discovered on Saturn's moon Enceladus. By flying through a plume spraying out of its icy shell, Cassini was able to detect molecular hydrogen. A possible plume of material has also been spotted erupting from the surface of Europa previous year, in the same place that one was spotted by Hubble in 2014.

The discovery means that microbes - if any exist there - could obtain energy by combining the hydrogen with carbon dioxide dissolved in the water.

This graphic illustrates how Cassini scientists think water interacts with rock at the bottom of the ocean of Saturn's icy moon Enceladus, producing hydrogen gas.

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Mr Fischer and Mr Yurchikhin join Nasa's Peggy Whitson , Russia's Oleg Novitskiy and France's Thomas Pesquet at the station. The Russian rocket carries US astronaut Jack Fischer and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin.

The Cassini project scientist, Linda Spilker, said, "Confirmation that the chemical energy for life exists within the ocean of a small moon of Saturn is an important milestone in our search for habitable worlds beyond Earth".

According to a report from Phys Org, scientists from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) discovered hydrogen erupting from the surface of Enceladus.

"Most of us would be excited with any life", Voytek said.

"This is the closest we've come, so far, to identifying a place with some of the ingredients needed for a habitable environment", said NASA administrator Thomas Zurbuchen.

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NASA's Planetary Science Division Director, James Green, said: "We're pushing the frontiers". As it passed through, the craft detected hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane which were in "thermodynamic disequilibrium". Hydrogen molecules in geysers on the moon are a possible sign of life. Called methanogenesis, it's a reaction that it says is "at the root of the tree of life on Earth".

"This is a very significant finding and could be a potential source of energy for any microbes that could be in Enceladus' ocean so this could be a very exciting finding for the Cassini team".

It means Enceladus may have the same single-celled organisms which began life on Earth, or more complex life still.

If life is present, it could resemble single-celled extremophiles that have lived in hydrothermal vents for billions of years.

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Pence says Trump will also attend the East Asia Summit that follows the regional meetings in the Philippines that same month. Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that the U.S. government sought "win-win" trade relations with Indonesia.

Not only that, but the plumes on Enceladus are associated with hotter regions on the moon.


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