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In Search For Life, NASA Finds Two “Ocean Worlds”

This artist's rendering shows Cassini diving through the Enceladus plume in 2015. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA scientists announced the findings of two so-called ‘Ocean Worlds’ in our solar system.

Two NASA spacecraft discovered plumes of water vapor erupting from the moons of Saturn and Jupiter – kind of like geysers here on earth.

Scientist say the Cassini spacecraft, launched about twenty years ago, surveyed one of Saturn’s moons Enceladus. Linda Spilker, Cassini Project Scientists, says instruments found a critical element in those plumes.

“The new finding is finding hydrogen coming from the plume of Enceladus,” said Spilker, “and it could support potentially microbes with energy on the seafloor of Enceladus.”

It’s believed hydrogen is one essential ingredient to support life. The others? Carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur in an environment with liquid water and  an energy source.

Scientists observed similar plumes on Jupiter’s moon Europa. NASA is developing a new spacecraft to take a closer look at that moon  called the Europa Clipper.

It’s a part of NASA’s investigation into “Ocean Worlds” in the solar system, says NASA’s Planetary Sciences Division Director Jim Green, where scientists hope to find signs of life.

“We’re looking in a way we never thought possible before for environments in our solar system which may harbor life today.”

The Cassini spacecraft, which discovered the hydrogen plumes of Enceladus, is nearing the end of it’s life as a planetary probe — it’s schedule to crash into the surface of Saturn later this year.

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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to ... Read Full Bio »