NASA announces alien life could be thriving on Saturn’s moon Enceladus
NASA has recently announced that one of Saturn’s moons could support alien life in our solar system. The discoveries made by NASA could be the beginning of the MOST important findings in the history of space. Experts have found that practically all necessary elements for life to exist have been discovered in One place in our solar system: on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
Nevermind the question ‘Are we alone in the universe?’. The real question now is ‘Are we alone in the solar system?’.
New findings suggest that icy moons inside our solar system meet all of the required criteria to support life as we know it.
According to scientists, Encelauds—an icy moon orbiting Saturn—contains under its thick Ice shell a MASSIVE ecosystem.
NASA experts have found traces of molecular hydrogen from the moon which suggests Saturn’s natural satellite is much more geologically active than we thought before.
Furthermore, this finding suggests that conditions to support life as we know it may exist on Enceladus.
According to NASA, all three ingredients were found on Enceladus. Image credit: NASA
The groundbreaking discovery—which forces us to question whether or not we are alone in our own cosmic backyard—was made by NASA’s unmanned spacecraft—Cassini, which has been exploring Saturn for 13 years.
Recently, during its closest ‘dive’ near Enceladus, Cassini discovered high-powered jets of water coming from the surface, containing hydrogen.
Scientists say that molecular hydrogen could have originated from hydrothermal reactions deep inside the moon where hot rocks and water go through several natural processes.
This graphic shows how Cassini scientists think water interacts with rocks at the bottom of the ocean of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus, producing hydrogen gas. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-CALTECH
The same processes here on Earth provide energy for ecosystems deep below the surface.
According to scientists finding hydrogen is remarkably important since it serves as ‘excellent food’. In fact, ancient life forms on Earth use it as fuel.
If there is in fact alien life on Enceladus, then it most likely feeds off of hydrogen and releases methane afterward. Methane has also been found coming from Enceladus.
The recent discoveries point to the possibility that Enecelauds—Saturns’ sixth largest moon—may have single-celled organisms, similar to those with which life on Earth began.
Mary Voytek, a senior astrobiologist at NASA said: “This is a new frontier because this is the first time we have seen evidence of an alien food source in an ocean not on Earth. We knew we had two of the key ingredients for life and now we have the third. This is the most exciting discovery in my eight-year career at NASA.”
According to experts, three main ingredients are necessary for life as we know it to exist on a planet: Water, organic molecules and a source of energy. In the past, experts found traces of the first two, but this new—third discovery—means that all three necessary components are there, and a fuel source that helps keep that life alive.
Lewis Dartnell, an astrobiology researcher at the University of Westminster said: “We now know there’s not only a warm, wet environment – we now realize there’s food for life. There’s fuel for an ecosystem on Enceladus.”
However, this new ‘alien ecosystem’ has not been observed or detected directly, but experts argue that all of the necessary conditions for it to thrive are there.
“We know that the ingredients for life are water, organic molecules, and energy,” says Caitriona Jackman, a space environment lecturer, from the University of Southampton. “We’ve seen evidence of water and chemical elements before, but we really haven’t had direct evidence of the energy sources that are capable of fuelling life.”
“That’s what’s very significant here: this molecular hydrogen is a direct observation of an energetic process that is potentially capable of fuelling life.”
“At present, we know of only one genesis of life (the one that led to us), so it is still possible that life could be an incredibly rare fluke,” writes David Rothery, professor of planetary geosciences at the Open University.
“If we knew that life had started independently in two places in our solar system, then we could be pretty confident that life also got started on some of the tens of billions of planets and moons around other stars in our galaxy that also have the right conditions.”
Researchers concluded that new research has given enough grounds for us to send a specific mission to Enceladus in order to search for traces of life.
Professor Jackman, who worked on the Cassini mission, referred to the new discoveries as a “tantalizing result,” saying that further research needs to be done to learn more about the moon.
“These ocean worlds with their protective outer shell, if indeed there’s life in there, it has to be completely different than ours in the sense that it’s generated in a way that’s not related to our life,” said Jim Green, director, Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters, during NASA’s press conference.
“We call that a second genesis.”
For more information on ocean worlds in our solar system and beyond, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/specials/ocean-worlds