Saturn’s Moons May Possess Conditions to Support Life

Water found on Europa and Enceladus the planets give scientists hope

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Photo Courtesy of MNN.com

NASA has revealed that two moons belonging to Saturn, Enceladus and Europa, may possess certain conditions that are essential to supporting life during a press conference in April 2017.

Underneath a thick surface layer of ice, both moons contain massive oceans, with Europa’s ocean alone estimated to contain around three times more water in volume than the amount of water on Earth, according to mnn.com.

The Cassini spacecraft detected molecular hydrogen within quills of water vapor venting into space from crevices in the moon’s icy surface.

On Europa, the Galileo spacecraft saved data in 1997 of a short bend in the magnetic field. However, it wasn’t until 2018 that NASA released new discoveries that explain the bend in the magnetic field is a water quill. Some of the previous observations of Enceladus have demonstrated that these quills become ionized and leave a blip in the magnetic field. Therefore, the identical blip on Europa is most likely a quill as well, explained mnn.com.

“Europa is a very challenging mission operating in a really high radiation environment, and there’s lots to do to prepare for it,” said Beth Robinson, NASA’s chief financial officer.

The name of the mission, Europa Clipper, is planned to be launched in the mid 2020s. It will attempt to find the moon’s topography, study how thick the planet’s ice crust is, and analyze the ability of the planet to host life. As long as NASA’s mission is completed on time, the Europa Clipper will be sent from Earth to Jupiter in only three years rather than the realistic travel time it would take of eight years, stated futurism.com.

“This is the closest we’ve come, so far, to identifying a place with some of the ingredients needed for a habitable environment,” stated Thomas Zurbuchen, an associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at headquarters in Washington state, in 2017. “These results demonstrate the interconnected nature of NASA’s science missions that are getting us closer to answering whether we are indeed alone or not.”

The hydrogen on Enceladus confirms most of the conditions necessary for life to form. According to NASA, an organism requires liquid water, a source of energy for metabolism, and chemical ingredients hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur, and phosphorus. Because the planet’s core is thought to be similar to meteorites in its chemical structuring, it is assumed that it likely has materials to support life, stated mnn.com.