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Enceladus Teeming With Life? NASA say maybe.

  1. Mar 28, 2012 #1


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    March 27, 2012: There's a tiny moon orbiting beyond Saturn's rings that's full of promise, and maybe -- just maybe -- microbes.

    In a series of tantalizingly close flybys to the moon, named "Enceladus," NASA's Cassini spacecraft has revealed watery jets erupting from what may be a vast underground sea. These jets, which spew through cracks in the moon's icy shell, could lead back to a habitable zone that is uniquely accessible in all the solar system.

    "More than 90 jets of all sizes near Enceladus's south pole are spraying water vapor, icy particles, and organic compounds all over the place," says Carolyn Porco, an award-winning planetary scientist and leader of the Imaging Science team for NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. "Cassini has flown several times now through this spray and has tasted it. And we have found that aside from water and organic material, there is salt in the icy particles. The salinity is the same as that of Earth's oceans."

    Rich geysers aren't the only auspicious thing about Enceladus. Thermal measurements have revealed temperatures as high as -120 deg Fahrenheit (190 Kelvin) emanating from some of these fissures.

    "If you add up all the heat, 16 gigawatts of thermal energy are coming out of those cracks," says Porco.
    Microbes on Enceladus? (fissures, 200px)
    The watery plumes of Enceladus come from icy fissures nicknamed "tiger stripes." [more]

    She believes the small moon, with its sub-surface liquid sea, organics, and an energy source, may host the same type of life we find in similar environments on Earth.

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  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 28, 2012 #2


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    Well, that's a really big "maybe". Let's hope there are though!
  4. Apr 13, 2012 #3
    Of course, in the light of what we know of interplanetary panspermia, life on Enceladus might be very similar to terrestrial life...

    Transfer of Life-Bearing Meteorites from Earth to Other Planets

    ...which would be fascinating to study because of its adaptations to such an alien environment, but otherwise would answer none of our questions about the origin(s) of Life.
  5. Apr 13, 2012 #4
  6. Apr 14, 2012 #5
    Good point.
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