May 25, 2019 | Updated: 09:32 AM EDT

Saturn's Moon Enceladus Could Support Alien Life Because Of Its Hydrogen Plumes

Apr 14, 2017 06:55 AM EDT

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Saturn's Moon Enceladus May Have Warm Enough Water for Life
(Photo : DAHBOO77/Youtube) In 2004, Cassini, the largest interplanetary spacecraft ever launched by NASA, arrived in orbit around Saturn. Since then, it's sent back oodles of information about the planet and some of its attendant moons. Now, thanks to the spacecraft, scientists believe that Saturn's moon Enceladus might have never-before-confirmed thermal activity on its ocean floor which could make the conditions right for life.

"Enceladus may even represent a very common habitat in the galaxy: icy moons around giant gas planets, located well beyond the 'habitable zone' of a star, but still able to maintain liquid water below their icy surface," said Nicolas Altobelli, in a statement. Altobelli is the Cassini project scientist from the European Space Agency.

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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