Saturn’s Enceladus – Similar to Deep Oceans on EarthAn enormous breakthrough in the search for life on other planets has been revealed by scientists. Spacecraft of Nasa’s Cassini had provided scientist with the first clear evidence that moon of Saturn, Enceladus tends to exhibit signs of current day hydrothermal activity which is similar to that seen in the deep oceans on Earth. If the same is confirmed, it would make the moon Enceladus, the only known body in the solar system beside the Earth where hot water as well as rocks tend to interact underground.
It is said that the activity would make the moon a much more attractive place for hunting microbial life. Astrobiologist consider the 314 mile wide Enceladus as one of the best bets of the solar for hosting life beyond the Earth. The satellite is said to be covered by an icy shell and is geologically active, as proved by the powerful geysers which tend to blast constantly from its south polar region. The clouds tend to contain substantial amount of water, which according to the scientists have originated from a subsurface ocean. Earlier research recommended that the ocean is in contact with the rocky mantle of Enceladus with possibility of all kinds of interesting chemical reactions.
No Sunlight Flowing in Underground SeaThe scientists discovered weird life form in hydrothermal vents on the ocean bottom, on Earth, where there seems to be no sunlight flowing through the underground sea of Enceladus. However, any microbes which tend to exist there could gain access to two different sources metabolism-supporting energy sources, molecular hydrogen and the heat provided by hydrothermal vents.
NASA states that the implications of this activity on a world besides our planet tend to open up exceptional scientific possibilities. These discoveries add to the possibility that Enceladus which comprise of a subsurface ocean, displaying remarkable geologic activity could contain an atmosphere which could be suitable for living organisms, according to John Grunsfeld astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission directorate in Washington.He further added that the location in our solar system where the extreme environments takes place in which life could exist, may bring us closer to answering queries to : `are we alone in the Universe’.
Hydrothermal Activity – Seawater Infiltrates/Reacts with Rocky CrustHydrothermal activity tends to take place when the seawater infiltrates and reacts with rocky crust and arises as a heated mineral laden solution, which is a natural event in the ocean on Earth. As per two science papers, the effects were the first clear indications that an icy moon could have same on-going active processes. The first paper published in the journal Nature relates to microscopic grains of rock that were noticed by Cassini in the Saturn system.
A four year extensive analysis of data from the spacecraft, laboratory experiments and computer simulations directed the researchers to the conclusion that the tiny grains probably formed when the hot water containing dissolved minerals from the moon’s rocky interior travelled upwards coming in contact with cooler water. According to the researchers, the subsurface sea of Enceladus contains dissolved sodium chloride like the Earth’s ocean but is full of sodium carbonate, also known as washing soda or soda ash. Study team members state that this alien water body is possibly similar to terrestrial soda lakes like the Mono Lake in California than it is to the Atlantic as well as Pacific oceans.