NASA held a press conference on Thursday to announce the detection of a form of chemical energy on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and believed to be present on Jupiter’s moon, Europa. The press conference was held on the same day new scientific papers were published by scientists tied to NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn and the Hubble Space Telescope that outlines the same revelations NASA addressed in its statements.
“This is the closest we’ve come, so far, to identifying a place with some of the ingredients needed for a habitable environment,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters in Washington. ”These results demonstrate the interconnected nature of NASA’s science missions that are getting us closer to answering whether we are indeed alone or not.”
Enceladus and Europa are both referred to by NASA as “Ocean Worlds,” as they are believed to house massive, liquid water oceans beneath their icy exterior crusts. The recent revelation of hydrogen plumes seemingly released from Enceladus’ surface, at the very bottom of its icy-enclosed ocean, provides the strongest evidence yet that the building blocks for life as we know may exist elsewhere within our own solar system.
“Confirmation that the chemical energy for life exists within the ocean of a small moon of Saturn is an important milestone in our search for habitable worlds beyond Earth,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.