Friday, 26 May, 2017

Nasa Has New Evidence That Life Exists Beyond Earth

NASA: New insights into 'Ocean Worlds' provide proof we may not be alone Ocean World Near Saturn Top Contender for Life Beyond Earth
Garry Little | 20 April, 2017, 00:12

According to published research papers, scientists have identified moons of Jupiter and Saturn as ocean worlds, areas far outside of Earth that could prove habitable for life outside of this planet.

At this point, however, the possibility of life existing on Enceladus is still speculative.

During Cassini's close flyby of Enceladus on October 28, 2015, INMS detected molecular hydrogen as the spacecraft flew through the plume of gas and ice grains spewing from cracks on the surface.

FILE - This image provided by NASA is a Hubble Space Telescope close-up of Saturn's disk, and it captures the transit of several moons across the planet's face.

"With an understanding of how life emerged here on Earth and what the limits of life are here on this planet", Voytek said, "we then project that out to other planets here in our solar system to see if we can find other habitable environments that can support life as we know it".

The new findings are an independent line of evidence that hydrothermal activity is taking place in the Enceladus ocean.

Cassini wasn't created to detect signs of life in the Enceladus plume - indeed, scientists didn't know the plume existed until after the spacecraft arrived at Saturn. Microbes that convert mineral-laden fluid into metabolic energy make these ecosystems possible. Scientists believe it's being produced at hydrothermal vents similar to the ones on Earth. The disk-shaped moon is about 19 miles (30 kilometers) across, slightly larger than the moon Pan, which is similar in appearance. Enceladus was discovered in 1789 by William Herschel (1738-1822), a British composer and astronomer of German origin. Equipment on the Cassini probe detected some of the required conditions and building blocks for life on both moons.

Hydrogen is a key energy source for microbial life and its detection in Enceladus' atmosphere has boosted scientists' belief that some of Saturn's moons could be supporting alien life in the form of microbes.

Running low on fuel, Cassini is in the final months of its mission, heading for a crushing September 15 dive into Saturn's atmosphere to avoid an inadvertent collision with one of the planet's potentially habitable moons.

"We developed new operations methods for INMS for Cassini's final flight through Enceladus' plume", said SwRI's Rebecca Perryman, the INMS operations technical lead. The ocean is believed to be the geysers' source. After carrying out extensive analyses, they determined that it was unlikely that the hydrogen that was observed was acquired during Enceladus' formation or from other processes on its surface or inside it.

While NASA's Cassini spacecraft has been in operation for two decades now, it has almost depleted its fuel reserves.

"Everything indicates that the hydrogen originates in the moon's rocky core".

Life as we know it requires liquid water, and until recently that seemed to be in short supply outside of Earth.

"The relatively high hydrogen abundance in the plume signals thermodynamic disequilibrium that favors the formation of methane from Carbon dioxide in Enceladus' ocean".

"We find that the most plausible source of this hydrogen is ongoing hydrothermal reactions of rock containing reduced minerals and organic materials".

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