Hydrogen molecules discovered on moon of Saturn


The Cassini probe detected some hydrogen molecules in Enceladus, a moon of Saturn. This place is most likely to find life beyond on planet earth. This life may be in the ocean, beneath the surface.

This discovery was announced this week by NASA, reporting this study from the Souhtwest Research Institute. Hydrogen molecules were detected by the Cassini probe in the south polar region of the satellite. These molecules originate from the hydrothermal processes in the ocean that exist under the ice sheet that forms the surface of Enceladus. As well as carbon, hydrogen is one of the essential elements of life. Alongside Europe (Jupiter’s moon), Enceladus is the place where it is most likely to find life beyond the planet Earth, NASA said.

“The presence of hydrogen has established another reference, stating that there is hydrothermal activity inside the planet. And that’s interesting because we know from our oceans that these are places that pulsate with life and that were probably one of the first places where life came on Earth”.

These hydrogen molecules have been decayed in water vapors, and according to scientists’ statements at a press conference at the US space agency, that vapor is produced by hydrothermal reactions between the hot rocks of the planet’s core and on the surface of Enceladus.

Therefore, scientists believe that hydrogen can participate in methane genesis, that is, in a process made by some microorganisms (such as certain bacteria) in which the organic matter is transformed into methane and carbon dioxide. It is mainly due to methane-genesis that these living beings can survive in underwater environments, with a lot of pressure, where sunlight cannot penetrate.

All these data were collected by the Cassini probe in 2015, when it was less than 50 kilometers from the south pole of Enceladus and was able to study the composition of the moon and its hydrothermal activity. A mass spectrometer, a technique that helps detect and identify molecules based on their mass and chemical structure, was used.

The study may help to understand whether the ocean beneath the icy surface of Enceladus can sustain life. On September 15, 2017, the Cassini probe will make its last trip, this one going to approach to Saturn and to enter its atmosphere until losing signal with the Earth. As long as the spacecraft resists entry into the gaseous giant, it will continue to send scientists information about the composition of the planet’s atmosphere.