Cassini, the unmanned spacecraft launched in 2004 to explore Saturn (video above), made several dives through the salt water-spraying geysers on the south pole of one of its moons, Enceladus, and the results have the space community buzzing.
The Sun reports:
Cassini’s instruments tasted the spray erupting from cracks in the surface ice on Enceladus and discovered the presence of molecular hydrogen.
Scientists say the only plausible source of this hydrogen is a hydrothermal chemical reaction caused by water in an underground ocean rubbing against hot rocks.
The instruments of the unmanned spacecraft also found carbon dioxide, which, along with hydrogen, is important in methanogenesis, which “allows microbial life to be found deep in Earth’s own oceans.”
Upon hearing NASA’s Linda Spilker say that the findings show that Enceladus “has almost all the ingredients that you would need to support life as we know it,” many on the internet reacted accordingly:
“This is really exciting news,” UFO expert Nick Pope told The Sun. “It’s not the big announcement some people expected or hoped for, confirming that we’ve found alien life, but it edges us ever closer. I suspect there’s life on Europa and Enceladus, and that it’s only a matter of time before we find it. This could be microbial life but it could be something bigger, more like fish, squid, clams, or perhaps some variety of marine life totally unlike anything on Earth.”
NASA tweeted out a video of Spilker explaining the findings:
Another tweet revealed what the process looks like:
According to The Independent, one leading scientist called the work “an important advance in assessing the habitability of Enceladus.”
While noting that much work still needed to be done to understand the geological makeup of the moon, the new research helps “constrain the possibility of life elsewhere in our solar system”, geochemist Jeffrey Seewald wrote in an assessment of the work.