Is there life on Enceladus?
That is the question NASA scientists are asking after an amazing discovery on Enceladus, a moon of the planet Saturn.
Ice plumes shooting into space from the ocean-bearing moon contain hydrogen from hydrothermal vents, an environment that some scientists believe led to the rise of life on Earth.
The discovery makes Enceladus the only place beyond Earth where scientists have found direct evidence of a possible energy source for life, according to the findings in the journal Science.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is to thank for the revelation. In September, Cassini will end a 13-year mission exploring Saturn and its entourage of 62 known moons.
“We now know that Enceladus has almost all of the ingredients that you would need to support life as we know it on Earth,” said Cassini Mission Project Scientist Linda Spilker,
Her associate on the project, Chris Glein, said no evidence had yet been found of organisms on Enceladus.
But he added: “I am encouraged by the geochemical data which could allow for this possibility”.
Several moons orbiting Saturn and Jupiter are known to contain underground oceans, but Enceladus is the only one where scientists have found proof of an energy source for life.