Enceladus sea floor might be a home for microbial life

Group of marine researchers found in 1977 found something that was only theorized before, hydrothermal vents – cracks on the ocean floor which release heat.

They were surprised to find mollusks in there, and in searches of other vents they found heat resistant microbes, giant tube worms and other extraordinary creatures living down there.

But until today we had no idea if they existed on other worlds. Nasa announced that they have indirect evidence for the existence of hydrothermal vents on one of Saturn moons.

The Cassini spacecraft flyby of Enceladus detected chemicals associated with these vents. This finding furthers the hypothesis that life may exists in the oceans of the icy moon.

“Enceladus is too small to have retained the hydrogen from when it formed, so the hydrogen we see today is coming from inside Enceladus,“said Linda Spilker, a scientist on the Cassini mission.

Cassini and Enceladus

In 2005 the Cassini researchers were surprised when discovered geysers emitting water from the south pole of Enceladus. Later investigations sprout the idea that the moon has water oceans beneath the thick ice. However the heating mechanism which caused the geysers is still unknown.

The Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer on  Cassini made  observations of the molecular hydrogen coming from these geysers. According to researchers like Hunter Waite of the Southwest Research Institute and his team, the source is most likely to be a hydrothermal vent. This geological activity may increase the chances for life.

Researchers published a hypothesis that life on Earth might have arised from such hydrothermal vents, where the first microbes were nurtured by the chemical reactions. This means that on Enceladus microbial life might exists.

“The hydrogen could be a potential source of chemical energy for any microbes living in Enceladus’ ocean,” Spilker says.

Source: astronomy.com