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Post at: Aug 17 2021

Possibility of Life on Saturn's Moon : NASA

Why in News?

  • The June 7,2021 issue of Nature Astronomy underlines a surprisingly large amount of methane found on Saturn's moon Titan and Enceladus, which may be a proof of microbial alien life forms. It was detected by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

Findings :

  • Titan (Saturn's moon) has methane in its atmosphere and Enceladus (also Saturn's moon) has a liquid ocean with erupting plumes of gas and water.
  • The Cassini spacecraft detected a relatively high concentration of certain molecules associated with hydrothernal vents on the bottom of Earth's oceans, specifically dihydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide.
  • Biological methanogenesis appeared to be compatible with the data.
  • There is a possibility of abiotic formation of methane, dihydrogen and carbon dioxide through the hydrothemal process if Enceladus formed through accretion of organic rich materials supplied by comets.

What are Methanogens ?

  • Methanogens are microorganism capable of generating methane as a metabolic by product (As found on Earth).
  • They are found in swamps, dead organic matter and even in the human gut.
  • They do not require oxygen for their survival.
  • They can be found even in high temperatures

Saturn's moon Titan

  • It is the largest moon of Saturn and the second largest moon in our solar system after Jupiter's Ganymede.
  • Titan has rivers lakes and seas on its surface (containing hydrocarbons like methane and ethane)
  • Atmosphere is made mostly of nitrogen, like Earth's and is four times denser.
  • Clouds on Titan causes methane rain
  • Its surface temperature is around-179 degree celcius due to its distance from sun.

Saturn's Moon Enceladus

  • t is a small icy moon which has an abundance of hydrogen molecules in water plumer. The plumes also contain carbon dioxide, methane and ammonia.
  • Vents present on Enceladus are similar to hydrothermal vents on Earth (which inhabit microbes.)

Cassini Spacecraft of NASA

  • the Cassini–Huygens space research mission commonly called Cassini was a collaboration among National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency to send a space probe to study planet Saturn and its system, including its rings and natural satellites.
  • It was launched on15 October, 1997 and had a mission life of 19 years, 335 days.

About Saturn

  • It is the sixth planet from the sun and the second largest planet in our solar system after Jupiter.
  • Its rings are made up of ice and rocks.
  • Liek Jupiter, Saturn is made up of hydrogen and  Helium.
  • Missions like Pioneer 11 and Voyagers 1 and 2 have visited Saturn but Cassini orbited Saturn 294 times from 2004 to 2017


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