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NASA New Discoveries: Saturn, Jupiter Moons May Be Able To Support Life

22 April 2017

Earth's hydrothermal vents are thriving with microbial life - leading scientists to believe that the icy ocean world could be habitable. The observation of the plume, which extends about 62 miles above Europa's surface, was captured by the Hubble space telescope and is detailed in a new separate paper.

The ingredients scientists look for when it comes to the possibility of life as we know it are liquid water, a source of energy for metabolism and the chemicals carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur.

The scientists used these observations to conclude that almost 98 percent of the gas in the plume is water, about 1 percent is hydrogen and the remaining gas is a mixture of other molecules including carbon dioxide, methane and ammonia.

'If we can prove this place where life could exist really does have it, that would be a huge discovery.

Lead scientist Dr Hunter Waite said the result showed the moon's environment would be "like a candy store for microbes" with a constant and plentiful food source.

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NASA announced on Thursday that its Cassini spacecraft mission to Saturn has gathered new evidence that there's a chemical reaction taking place under the moon's icy surface that could provide conditions for life.

During the final Cassini flybys of Enceladus, the spacecraft's Open Source Neutral Beaming instrument searched for hydrogen in the plume by sampling the gas.

An analysis of the samples Cassini took two years ago, as it flew through the geysers of Enceladus, have now revealed these tell-tale hydrogen molecules.

In 2015, researchers said that there was evidence of a warm ocean under the moon's surface, as NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reported.

Meanwhile, Cassini's longstanding mission is soon coming to an end.

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That is the question NASA scientists are asking after an awesome discovery on Enceladus, a moon of the planet Saturn.

"Enceladus has nearly all of the ingredients that you would need to support life on Earth", Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker said, Mashable reported. Any life, even bacteria, would be a welcome find.

"If correct, this observation has fundamental implications for the possibility of life on Enceladus", geochemist Jeffrey Seewald, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in MA, wrote in a related commentary in Science.

As for Europa, an icy moon orbiting Jupiter similar in size to Earth's, NASA reports that its "plumes could be a real phenomenon" by popping up in the same region in 2016 as it did in 2014. A spacecraft under development called the Europa Clipper, to launch sometime in the 2020s, could shed more light on the matter.

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NASA New Discoveries: Saturn, Jupiter Moons May Be Able To Support Life