USA (NASA) – Ice plumes shooting into space from Saturn’s ocean-bearing moon Enceladus contain hydrogen from hydrothermal vents, an environment that some scientists believe led to the rise of life on Earth, research published on Thursday (April 13) showed.
Similar conditions, in which hot rocks meet ocean water, may have been the cradle for the appearance of microbial life on Earth more than 4 billion years ago.
“If correct, this observation has fundamental implications for the possibility of life on Enceladus,” geochemist Jeffrey Seewald, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, wrote in a related commentary in Science.
In 2005, Cassini discovered Enceladus’s geysers, which shoot hundreds of miles into space. Some of the material falls back onto the surface as a fresh coat of ice, while much of the rest gathers into a halo of ice dust that feeds one of Saturn’s rings.
A decade later, scientists measuring the moon’s slightly wobbly orbit around Saturn determined it holds a vast ocean buried 19- to 25 miles (30- to 40 km) beneath its icy shell. The ocean is believed to be the geysers’ source.