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    Sci Tech

Life out there in the Solar System? Look to Saturn’s moons…

Saturn's moons Titan and Enceladus may be alive with life

The Cassini probe shows a water jet plume ejected from Enceladus. The plume contains carbon based molecules. Scientists want to swoop in with a probe and collect some of the mist to study it for life.

The Cassini probe shows a water jet plume ejected from Enceladus. The plume contains carbon based molecules. Scientists want to swoop in with a probe and collect some of the mist to study it for life.

NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay thinks Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus may support life.

The Cassini space probe has detected organic matter in water jets that blast off the surface of the moon cause by tidal heating from Saturn and its ring system.

Chris McKay from NASA:

“The source is producing around 16 gigawatts of power and looks very like the geothermal energy sources we have on Earth – like the deep vents we see in our ocean beds and which bubble up hot gases.”

The surface of Enceladus is ice covered and cracked from tidal heating from Saturn.

The surface of Enceladus is ice covered and cracked from tidal heating from Saturn.

“Those plumes do not represent a torrent,” cautions McKay. “This is not the Mississippi pouring into space. The output is roughly equivalent to that of the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone national park. On the other hand, it would be enough to create a river that you could kayak down.

“The fact that this water is being vented into space and is mixed with organic material is truly remarkable, however. It is an open invitation to go there. The place may as well have a big sign hanging over it saying: ‘Free sample: take one now’.”

LIfe on other worlds? Enceladus is seen hovering in front of Saturn's largest moon Titan.

LIfe on other worlds? Enceladus is seen hovering in front of Saturn’s largest moon Titan.

Saturn’s largest moon Titan is already infamous for the possibility of life. It harbors a thick atmosphere of nitrogen and methane which resembles primitive Earth.

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