Jupiter and Saturn's moons could have life
In terms of potential habitability, Enceladus particularly has almost all of the key ingredients for life as we know it, researchers said. If that is the case, the crucial chemical methane could be forming in the ocean as well.
This illustration shows Cassini diving through the Enceladus plume in This is the second time a plume has been observed in this exact spot, which has researchers excited that it could prove to be a feature on the surface.
The green oval highlights the plumes Hubble observed on Europa. Why is this exciting? Europa and Enceladus are showcasing some of these key ingredients for life in their oceans, which is why researchers believe they are the best chance for finding life beyond Earth in our own solar system.
First, they could see plume material linked to interior water. They determined that the moon had a global oceanand then a cosmic dust analyzer revealed silicon dioxide grains, indicating warm hydrothermal activity.
We have to go back and look and search for signs of life as well. It is believed that Venus and Mars were once ocean worlds, but the greenhouse gas effect and a vulnerable atmosphere, respectively, caused those planets to lose their oceans.
Although the Cassini mission, which began incomes to an end this year, Waite is eager for NASA to return to Enceladus and search for life, because he believes it is the best candidate for habitability. Researchers want to confirm a very solid case for habitability by finding sulfur and phosphorus on Enceladus, as well as narrowing down the pH potential of hydrogen and reinforcing previous measurements.
The second step would be looking for signs of life by flying a spectrometer through the plume, searching for rations of amino and fatty acids, certain isotopic ratios indicative of life and other relationships in molecules that indicate energy for microbial life, Waite said.
NASA plans to further explore ocean worlds in our solar system, including through the recently named Europa Clipper missionthe first to explore an alien ocean.
Although Waite favors Enceladus of the two ocean worlds, Schmidt believes that Europa could be the best case for life in our solar system beyond Earth.
She and two other researchers came up with the name while sitting in a hotel room during a conference. How do you get a long-lived mission at Europa with global coverage but not be in the radiation environment?
Schmidt will be an investigator for the ice-penetrating radar instrument that will be housed on the Europa Clipper.
Was Venus once habitable? Waite is using his knowledge from the Cassini mission to work on an improved mass spectrometer for the Europa Clipper mission.
Research suggesting the possibility of an ocean on Europa was published as early asafter the Voyager mission saw long lines and dark spots, as opposed to a cratered surface similar to other moons.
Then the Galileo mission reached Europa in and revealed for the first time that there was an ocean on another planet. There are arguments that life could exist on Mars, but it was most likely habitable in the past, when it supported bodies of water and had a more hospitable climate and an atmosphere.
Water in the solar system Photos: Water in the solar system An artistic impression of the Mars Express spacecraft probing the southern hemisphere of Mars. Radar detected a lake of liquid water beneath the surface.The discovery, which has thrilled astronomers, has raised hopes that the hunt for alien life beyond the solar system could start much sooner than previously thought, with the next generation of.
The knowledge and tools NASA has developed to study life on Earth will be a great asset to the study of planets beyond our solar system. The knowledge and tools NASA has developed to study life on Earth will be a great asset to the study of planets beyond our solar system.
For example, the agency's next Mars rover, scheduled to launch in , will search for signs of past life and cache samples for a possible return to Earth for analysis.
NASA also aims to land astronauts on Mars in the s — a step Stofan regards as key to the search for Mars life. Scientists have discovered a new solar system, consisting of seven warm, rocky planets orbiting the dwarf star Trappist-1, just 39 light years from Earth.
It is a discovery that has reignited the mystery of Mars here on Earth. “It really focuses attention on the question of possible life and that’s really the underlying question here,” Jakosky.
the study of life on earth and beyond; it emphasizes research into questions of the origin of life, the conditions under which life can survive and the search for life beyond earth "the study of life .