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NASA Announcement: Saturn’s Moon ‘Enceladus’ Can Host Alien Life!

First Posted: Apr 14, 2017 04:59 AM EDT
Enceladus
NASA has announced that Enceladus has habitable conditions, making it the first known celestial world in the Solar System that can support life apart from Earth.
(Photo : Giorgi Koberidze/YouTube screenshot)

NASA had created quite a stir earlier this week with the announcement that it was going to reveal new discoveries about alien oceans in the Solar System, based on findings from the Cassini spacecraft and Hubble Space Telescope. Now, the American space agency has announced that Saturn’s moon Enceladus is a habitable world because it has nearly all the ingredients to support life.

Life, as is known, requires three main ingredients to originate, exist, evolve or function -- liquid water, energy source for metabolism and the right chemical ingredients including oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur. The findings from the Cassini mission reveal that nearly all of these ingredients have been detected on Enceladus, except for phosphorous and sulfur. However, NASA scientists suspect these two ingredients to be present on Enceladus because the moon’s rocky core is thought to be chemically similar to meteorites that contain phosphorous and sulfur.

NASA has reported that the findings from the Cassini mission have indicated that hydrogen gas is flowing into Enceladus’ subsurface ocean from hydrothermal activity on the seafloor. The presence of ample hydrogen in the ocean of Enceladus implies that microbes, if they do exist on Saturn’s moon, could use it to gain energy by combining it with carbon dioxide dissolved in water.

The consequent chemical reaction known as methanogenesis, which creates methane as a byproduct, is “at the root of the tree of life” on our planet and could have been crucial to the origin of life on Earth. "Although we cannot detect life, we have found that there is a food source there for it,” said lead author of the Cassini study Hunter Waite.

According to the associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, this is the closest humanity has come so far to identify a place with some of the ingredients required to support life. Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker added that the confirmation -- that the chemical energy for life exists within Enceladus’ ocean -- is an important milestone in mankind’s search for habitable worlds beyond Earth.

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