Planning for the long weekend, in reads.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2017
One of the most interesting news releases that would have certainly captured the imaginations of many out there was the announcement of the discovery of hydrogen molecules in the plumes around Enceladus, Saturn’s sixth largest moon by Cassini, a joint space exploration endeavour of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian space agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI) . Part of a twenty year long spacecraft exploration project, this Cassini discovery points towards increased prospects of the existence of microbial organisms other than those found on Earth [2,4]:
“In 2005, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft spied jets of water ice and vapor erupting into space from fissures on Enceladus, evidence of a salty ocean beneath the saturnian moon’s placid icy surface. Now, it turns out that the jets contain hydrogen gas, a sign of ongoing reactions on the floor of that alien sea. Because such chemistry provides energy for microbial life on Earth, the discovery makes Enceladus the top candidate for hosting life elsewhere in the solar system—besting even Jupiter’s Europa, another icy moon with an ocean. “We didn’t see microbes,” says Hunter Waite, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, and the lead author of a study published this week in Science. “But we saw their food.””