Apr 14, 2017 06:55 AM EDT
NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft has discovered erupting hydrogen gas from the plumes of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. A research team from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) have analyzed the data collected by Cassini and described that the Hydrogen is produced by the chemical reactions between the moon's rocky core and warm water from its subsurface ocean.
Researchers explained in the journal of Science that Enceladus’s ocean floor might have hydrothermal vents just like earth Earth. Hydrothermal vents are known to support life at the seafloor of Earth. However, researchers haven't found any presence of microbial life, but same energy source suggests that habitable conditions could exist beneath the moon's icy crust.
The principal investigator of Cassini's Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) and lead researcher from SwRI, Dr. Hunter Waite said in the report,“Hydrogen is a source of chemical energy for microbes that live in the Earth's oceans near hydrothermal vents”. Hydrothermal vents emit hot mineral-rich fluid that creates an another ecosystem for unusual creatures to thrive and Enceladus have similar kind of hydrothermal vents.
According to Smithsonian, microbes gain their metabolic energies from the mineral-laden fluid that help them to survive in these ecosystems. SwRI’s pioneer of extraterrestrial chemical oceanography, Dr. Christopher Glein who was also part of the study, explained that if the same kind of organisms is staying in Enceladus then they can burn hydrogen to gain energy via chemosynthesis.
Cassini’s INMS detected the evidence of Hydrogen during the flyby on Oct. 28, 2015. Scientists conducted several laboratory tests, data analyses, and extensive simulations to find out the background sources and the origin of hydrogen in Enceladus.
They have also found another source of Hydrogen on the icy moon which includes the preexisting reservoir in the ice shell or global ocean. Now they are looking for the answer that the hydrogen was trapped in the reservoir since the beginning of Enceladus or from other external sources.
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