On Sept. 14, 2020, a new planet was added to the list of potentially habitable worlds in the Solar System: Venus. Phosphine, a toxic gas made up of one phosphorus and three hydrogen atoms (PH₃), commonly produced by organic life forms but otherwise difficult to make on rocky planets, was discovered in the middle layer of the Venus atmosphere. This raises the tantalizing possibility that something is alive on our planetary neighbor. With this discovery, Venus joins the exalted ranks of Mars and the icy moons Enceladus and Europa among planetary bodies where life may once have existed, or perhaps… This story continues at The Next Web
Enceladus, Saturn's mysterious moon that could support life, may be more geologically active than previously thought, according to a new study.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has created a global infrared mosaic of the surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The mosaic was created using a complete dataset from the Casini spacecraft that orbited Saturn and its moons between 2004 and 2017. Cassini’s mission ended after the spacecraft was intentionally sent into the atmosphere of the planet. Despite the mission ending three … Continue reading
A new map of Enceladus using both visible light and infrared shows regions of geological activity which have deposited fresh ice onto the moon's surface.
NASA has proposed a mission to visit Neptune's moon, Triton, which could have an ocean capable of supporting life. In the interim, researchers are looking at the "water" on both ice giants, Neptune and Uranus.
NASA last week launched its Mars 2020 Perseverance rover to hunt for signs of ancient alien life. Once on Mars, Perseverance will be powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. The nuclear "battery" is fueled by a rare human-made material called plutonium-238. Perseverance is just the latest in a long line of groundbreaking, plutonium-powered spacecraft that have changed our understanding of the solar system. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. NASA's latest car-size Mars rover, Perseverance, rocketed off Earth last week, kicking off a seven-month voyage through deep space to Mars. The robot is designed to spend three years exploring the red planet's surface, hunting for signatures of ancient alien microbes, stashing Martian soil samples for future return to Earth, deploying the first-ever interplanetary helicopter, and paving the way for human explorers with a variety of experiments. However, a device called a multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator, or MMRTG, could power Perseverance for more than 14 years thanks to a unique nuclear material called plutonium-238, or Pu-238. The material has powered NASA spacecraft for decades, including some for close to half a century. Pu-238 is a byproduct of nuclear weapons production. Unlike its sister chemical, plutonium-239 (which makes up the fissile cores of bombs), half of any amount decays within about 87 years. On a spacecraft, Pu-238's decay gives off lasting warmth that helps safeguard fragile electronics. Most importantly, wrapping Pu-238 with thermoelectric materials that convert heat to electricity, forms a bewilderingly long-lasting power source. The space agency used to have just only 37 lbs of Pu-238 left to put inside a spacecraft — enough for another two or three spacecraft. But NASA and the US Energy Department have resurrected Pu-238 production capabilities, helping provide enough material for Perseverance and future missions. To tide you over until the Perseverance reaches Mars and begins its alien hunt, here are the 16 greatest Pu-238-powered US space programs of the past and present — plus more that have yet to launch.SEE ALSO: NASA added 6 HD video cameras to its next Mars rover so we can all watch the first footage of a spacecraft landing on another planet DON'T MISS: A forgotten war technology could safely power Earth for millions of years. Here's why we aren't using it Transit satellite network Physicist Glenn Seaborg discovered plutonium in 1940. Just 20 years later, engineers used it to build nuclear batteries for spacecraft. In 1960 the US Navy took over an experimental plutonium-powered satellite program called TRANSIT to guide their submarines and missiles from space. The first satellite powered by plutonium, called Transit 4A (above), reached orbit on June 29, 1961.   Youtube Embed:http://www.youtube.com/embed/o9h2-TfaITo?rel=0Width: 800pxHeight: 450px By 1988, dozens of similar spacecraft — four of them using nuclear power sources — made up a rudimentary satellite navigation network. Each satellite beamed a unique radio signal. With multiple signals coming from different orbits, the Navy could easily track its submarines and other wartime hardware. But space scientists hit a snag early on: Their data suggested that spacecraft slowed down or sped up over certain parts of Earth. When researchers mapped the anomalies, they realized that some regions of the planet were far denser than they thought, and that the extra mass — and gravity — subtly affected spacecraft speed. The map of the anomalies (above) became the first of Earth's geoid, a representation of the planet's true gravitational shape. It's now essential to correcting the orbits of satellites. Apollo surface experiments Apollo 11 astronauts in July 1969 dropped off about 1.2 ounces of Pu-238 on the moon. The material sat inside a device called the Apollo Lunar Radioisotopic Heater. The device kept a seismic monitoring station warm during half-month-long lunar nights, when surface temperatures can dip to to -243 degrees Fahrenheit (-153 degrees Celsius). All subsequent Apollo missions used plutonium, but kept theirs inside of nuclear batteries to provide 70 watts of power. That's on par with an incandescent light bulb's energy use — and just enough to charge the electronics of surface experiments. Above, astronaut Alan Bean pulls a plutonium fuel cask from the lunar lander during Apollo 12's first extravehicular excursion. A similar nuclear battery from NASA's flubbed Apollo 13 mission survived reentry to Earth orbit. NASA suspects it landed somewhere in the bottom of the Tonga Trench in the South Pacific Ocean. To this day, no one has found it, or detected any release of the material. Nimbus B-1 satellite One of the most important space missions powered by Pu-238 began with a disaster. The Nimbus-B-1 satellite was supposed to use its nuclear battery to measure Earth's surface temperatures from space, through both day and night. But when it launched on May 18, 1968, a booster failed and mission control blew up the rocket and spread chunks of spacecraft all over the Pacific Ocean. All was not lost, though. A crew recovered the battery's fully intact fuel casks (above) between California's Jalama Beach and San Miguel Island, demonstrating their robust safety design. Nuclear engineers recycled the plutonium fuel into a new battery, which was used in the follow-up Nimbus III mission (one of the very first navigation satellites to aid search-and-rescue operations). The Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 probes NASA intended its Pioneer program of more than a dozen spacecraft to explore the moon, visit Venus, and monitor space weather. But most people remember Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 for their daring flybys of never-before-visited outer planets.  Pioneer 10 launched on March 2, 1972. NASA maintained contact with it until 2003, when, at a distance of 7.5 billion miles (12 billion kilometers), its radio signal became too weak to detect. Using a 155-watt nuclear battery, it became the first spacecraft to cross the Asteroid Belt, visit Jupiter, and beam back images of the gas giant. Pioneer 11, which launched on April 6, 1973, became the first spacecraft to visit Saturn. NASA lost contact with that probe more than 22 years after its launch, when it was billions of miles from Earth. Pioneer 10 lasted significantly longer, launching on March 2, 1972, and sending its last, feebly detectable signal on April 27, 2002 — more than three decades of continuous operation. Just in case the probes bump into intelligent aliens, each one carries a plaque to communicate basic information about the spacecraft's origin and creators. The Viking landers By the time sunlight reaches Mars, it's about 50% less intense than on Earth. Combined with a dusty and windblown environment, solar panels become a liability for surface spacecraft. To touch down on the Martian surface for the first time in 1976, NASA built two Viking orbiters and a Pu-238-powered lander for each one. Both landers carried stereoscopic cameras, a weather station, a shovel, and a soil-sampling chamber to sniff out signs of life 140 million miles (225 million kilometers) from Earth. Neither lander dug deep enough to find water ice, and the soil experiment failed to detect organic molecules, though they did sniff out carbon dioxide — a gas emitted by most active lifeforms — when it introduced a nutrient-rich liquid to the soil. Although non-biological soil chemistry likely caused the anomalous result, the Viking landers didn't labor in vain. In addition to returning stunning views of the red planet (above), the landers made the case for NASA to send a flotilla of spacecraft to visit Mars, including the Phoenix lander, which found both water ice and the chemicals that may have tricked Viking's life-detecting experiments. The Voyager probes The Voyager probes, launched in 1977, capitalized on years of improvements in electronics over their predecessors, Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, to return stunning views of the solar system — including a view of the Earth from 4 billion miles away that Carl Sagan championed. At 13.9 billion miles (22.4 billion kilometers) and counting, Voyager 1 is the farthest human-made object from Earth. It left the planetary solar system and reached the interstellar medium, or space between star systems, in August 2012. Despite the vast distances and more than 40 years of operation, each of the Voyagers' three Pu-238-filled nuclear batteries allow the spacecraft to continue communicating with ground stations on Earth. NASA expects each spacecraft to go fully offline by 2025. Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 also launched with a more advanced message for any intelligent life they encountered: a golden record full of images, audio and other information about Earth and its lifeforms. This time capsule of humanity is expected to last about 1 billion years. Ulysses solar orbiter To get into a peculiar orbit above and below the sun to study its poles, designers of the Ulysses spacecraft ran into a paradox: a sun-probing machine that couldn't rely on solar power. Achieving Ulysses' orbit required flying to Jupiter, then using the gas giant's gravity to slingshot the spacecraft into a proper trajectory. Sunlight is 25 times dimmer at Jupiter than at Earth, and solar panels would have doubled the spacecraft's weight — 2,500 lbs (1,130 kg) of arrays versus a 124-lb (56-kg) nuclear battery. Ulysses launched in 1990, pulled off the Jupiter gravity assist two years later, and began its mission in 1994. It lasted until 2009, when the decaying Pu-238's warmth faded enough that it couldn't keep Ulysses' hydrazine propellant from freezing. Before it perished after nearly 19 years of service, however, Ulysses flew through the tails of several comets, explored the sun's north and south poles, and probed the solar wind. Galileo Jupiter probe Launched from the payload bay of space shuttle Atlantis in 1995, the Galileo probe used two nuclear batteries to give it 570 watts of power. About enough to run a dorm room microwave, that initial output allowed Galileo to study Jupiter and its four large moons Io, Callisto, Ganymede and Europa. Space scientists operated Galileo for 14 years, eight of them spent around Jupiter. To safeguard potentially life-supporting Jovian moons from any stray Earthly bacteria stuck to the spacecraft, NASA plunged it into Jupiter's thick atmosphere at about 100,000 mph (161,ooo kph) in 2003. Cassini Saturn probe Carrying a whopping 72 lbs (33 kg) of nuclear material — the most Pu-238 of any spacecraft ever launched — Cassini faced heated public opposition before its 1997 launch toward Saturn. Some people were worried the material might spread during an accident in Earth's atmosphere during launch. They were also worried it might happen about two years after launch, when Cassini would make a speed-boosting gravity assist past Earth. However, an information campaign — which included details about the many safeguards built into nuclear batteries — plus additional safety tests eventually quelled most of the public's fears. Cassini's three nuclear batteries allowed it to beam back more data than any deep-space probe in history. Vimeo Embed:http://www.vimeo.com/video/24410924Width: 800pxHeight: 450px Cassini arrived at Saturn on Christmas Day in 2004, dropped a lander named Huygens on the moon Titan, discovered moonlets in the planet's rings, recorded Saturn's polar auroras, zoomed through and "sniffed" the icy jets of the moon Enceladus, found evidence of a global subsurface ocean, and more.   But like Galileo at Jupiter, Cassini was to meet its doom on Saturn. On September 15, 2017, NASA plunged the robot into the gas giant to prevent it contaminating any nearby moons that might harbor life. The above "yarn ball" animation depicts all of Cassini's orbits from 2004 through 2017, including its final one. New Horizons Pluto probe New Horizons became the first-ever Earth visitor to the dwarf planet Pluto and its ensemble of moons. It took nine years of travel — a journey it could not have survived without Pu-238. The spacecraft launched in 2006 toward Pluto at roughly 36,000 mph (58,000 kph). That was far too fast to dip into orbit around Pluto, but the spacecraft squeezed in a solid 6 months of observations around its flyby date of July 14, 2015. New Horizons' single nuclear battery enabled observations of the dwarf planet and its five known moons — Charon, Nix, Hydra, P1 and P2. From revealing the oceanic origins of Pluto's newly discovered heart to its giant tail in space, the spacecraft's photos and discoveries have proven remarkable at every turn. Since departing the Pluto system, New Horizons has carried on in the Kuiper Belt to visit other trans-Neptunian objects. On New Year's Day in 2019, the spacecraft flew by an object called 486958 Arrokoth — also known as 2014 MU69 or Ultima Thule. The two-lobed, red-hued, and seemingly pancake-like space rock is one of the most pristine and ancient in the solar system, a sort of "planetary embryo" that shows what rocky worlds were built by. NASA is still determining which strange new planetary objects in deep-freeze that New Horizons will fly by in the 2020s and 2030s — follow-on missions that would be impossible without Pu-238. Curiosity Mars rover (Mars Science Laboratory) NASA's car-sized Curiosity rover landed safely on Mars on August 5, 2012 after surviving a harrowing descent known to engineers as the "7 minutes of terror." The robot is equipped with everything from a stereoscopic camera and a powerful microscope to a rock-zapping infrared laser and an X-ray spectrometer to perform advanced science on the red planet. Unlike previous wheeled rovers on Mars, which only used bits of Pu-238 to warm their circuit boards (and relied entirely on solar power), one 125-watt nuclear powers source feeds Curiosity. The power source should be strong enough to keep the rover rolling around Mars' mountainous Gale Crater for about 14 years. Curiosity harbors some of the last Pu-238 in NASA's old reserves. The spacecraft uses about 10.6 lbs (4.8 kg), leaving the space agency with roughly 37 lbs of usable plutonium. The DOE and NASA have worked to make new Pu-238 and refresh about 35 lbs (16 kg) of material that has decayed over the years. Mission managers say a new robot-automated process can help them make nearly one pound (400 grams) of new material a year, working toward 3.3 lbs (1.5 kilograms) per year starting in the mid-2020s. Though the price of Pu-238 is difficult to estimate due to shared infrastructure costs and varying output of the material, it likely costs thousands of dollars per gram, making it among the most expensive substances known by weight. Perseverance rover (Mars 2020) NASA used about one-third of what usable Pu-238 it had left to power the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission. The rover is almost identical to Curiosity, but it harbors a unique new tool set to explore Mars — and comes with the first interplanetary helicopter.   NASA will attempt to land the nuclear-powered rover on February 18, 2021, at this location in Jezero Crater, where the space agency will collect its first Martian soil samples for a future rocket launch to Earth. Dragonfly NASA's next Pu-238-powered mission will be the Dragonfly helicopter, which aims to explore the skies and surface of Saturn's moon Titan. Dragonfly is supposed to launch in 2026 and land in 2034. Once it lands, the drone will fly about five miles per excursion, racking up perhaps 100 miles total, to visually document the icy moon's features, sample its strange soils, and seek out possible signs of life on Titan's surface. Pu-238 will be essential not only to powering the vehicle, but also keeping its components functioning in the minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 179 degrees Celsius) cold.   Space scientists have dreamed up many more plutonium-powered missions, including a nuclear-powered boat for Saturn's moon Titan (which may have the ingredients for life) and a long-lived orbiter of Jupiter's moon Europa (which is thought to harbor an ocean bigger than all of Earth's watery territory). Though many have fallen by the wayside with technical, budgetary, and Pu-238 supply constraints, some may see resurrection as NASA and the DOE work together to reestablish American supplies of the unique nuclear material. This is an updated an expanded version of a story first published at Wired by Dave Mosher, the author and copyright holder.
NASA has refuted the explosive claim from a former employee that the space agency "found evidence of life" on Mars in the 1970s."The collective general opinion of the large majority of the scientific community does not believe the results of the Viking experiments alone rise to the level of extraordinary evidence," NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said in an email to Fox News."Although we have yet to find signs of extraterrestrial life, NASA is exploring the solar system and beyond to help us answer fundamental questions, including whether we are alone in the universe.From studying water on Mars, probing promising 'oceans worlds,' such as Enceladus and Europa, to looking for biosignatures in the atmospheres of planets outside our solar system, NASA’s science missions are working together with a goal to find unmistakable signs of life beyond Earth.”The steadfast denial comes just days after Gilbert Levin, who worked on the Viking missions to the Red Planet during the 1970s, published an op-ed that made it clear that he believes data from the Labeled Release (LR) in 1976 was supportive of finding life."On July 30, 1976, the LR returned its initial results from Mars," Levin wrote in the op-ed, entitled "I’m Convinced We Found Evidence of Life on Mars in the 1970s."
The vattenplymer Saturn's moon Enceladus is shooting out of the space containing the critical elements for laying the foundations of life.It has long been suspected to be the ocean beneath Enceladus is concealing the organic substances.Scientists have previously registered them on the Saturn, and the moon's surface.for Now, Nasa has for the first time, watched organic substances dissolved in the water.Some of them contain nitrogen, and oxygen, which are essential elements for the creation of chains of amino acids.Amino acids are complex molecules that form the building blocks of proteins, which, in turn, is a prerequisite for the emergence of life on earth.
Scientists have discovered nitrogen- and oxygen- containing organic molecules in ice grains blown out by Saturn’s moon Enceladus, according to a new study.One such moon is Saturn’s Enceladus, an icy orb thought to contain a very deep subsurface water ocean beneath a thick icy crust.Finding organic molecules on Enceladus is exciting, since water plus energy plus organic molecules might be the ingredients for life.The Cassini mission flew through these plumes in 2004 and 2008, gathering data on the material with two of its instruments, the Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) and the Cosmic Dust Analyser (CDA).For the new study, researchers based in Germany and the United States took a deeper look at the CDA’s data and found new organic compounds, according to the paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.The molecules included amines, which are nitrogen- and oxygen-containing organic molecules similar to those on Earth that turn into amino acids.
Hydrothermal vents on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, are blasting out organic compounds that could provide the right ingredients to make amino acids, the building blocks of life as we know it.Amino acids, considered an essential for life, are used to form proteins in all known living organisms.They contain carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen - these elements have all been found in the compounds detected on Enceladus, according to a paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on Wednesday.Data from the Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer onboard NASA’s now-defunct Cassini spacecraft found “low-mass organic compounds in the Enceladean ice grains: nitrogen-bearing, oxygen-bearing, and aromatic.” The ice grains were spewed from the hydrothermal vents on the Moon’s ocean floor.The plumes of water vapour and ice burst through the cracks of its icy surface and fly off into space, allowing spacecraft like Cassini to sniff out their chemical composition.On Earth, hydrothermal vents provide heat and energy to kickstart chemical reactions to produce amino acids.
NASA's Cassini probe plunged into Saturn's atmosphere in Sept. 2017, but astronomers are still poring over the data it sent back to Earth before its demise.New research shows Cassini picked up "new kinds of organic compounds", the precursors to amino acids, when it passed through a plume of ice ejected by Saturn's moon Enceladus.The nitrogen- and oxygen-containing compounds are exciting because they suggest the subsurface ocean of the icy moon has, at the very least, the precursors for life to begin.The study, published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on Oct. 2, details the hunt for these compounds with the Cassini spacecraft.The Cassini-Huygens mission, launched in 1997, spent approximately 13 years orbiting Saturn and studying the great ringed planet.It has provided Earthlings with some impeccable views of the planet and its moons -- and it has also provided a ton of new science to sift through.
Scientists have discovered organic molecules containing nitrogen and oxygen on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, according to a new study.Enceladus, which is Saturn's sixth-largest moon and about 310 miles in diameter, is an icy orb believed to contain a deep subsurface ocean underneath its icy crust.Discovering organic molecules on Enceladus is noteworthy because water, energy and organic molecules could be the ingredients for some type of extraterrestrial life.Enceladus shot the material out in plumes from cracks in its south polar crust, according to scientists.For the new study, German and U.S. researchers examined the Cosmic Dust Analyzer's data and found new organic compounds, according to the paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society for November.The molecules included amines, which are nitrogen- and oxygen-containing organic molecules that have some similar traits to those on Earth, according to the study's abstract.
Water on Saturn's moon Enceladus contains organic compounds — the building blocks of amino acids that make up DNA and formed the foundations of life on Earth.Data from NASA's Cassini mission revealed that these nitrogen and oxygen compounds are present in plumes of liquid water that shoot into space from the salty ocean below Enceladus's surface.These compounds, which carry nitrogen and oxygen, play a key role in producing amino acids — complex molecules that serve as the building blocks of proteins.Without proteins, life as we know it on Earth couldn't exist.These findings were published Wednesday in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.The plumes blew the compounds into space, where NASA's Cassini spacecraft sensed them as it flew nearby.
Launched in 1997, NASA's Cassini mission was designed to orbit Saturn, studying the planet's rings, icy moons, and general composition.During its 13 years of circling, it also discovered bizarre storms at the planet's north pole, mini-moons orbiting between the rings, and plumes of water ice spewing from its moon Enceladus.Oh, and its largest moon, Titan, turned out to be dotted with lakes of methane and covered in a thick orange haze—yet might nevertheless be habitable.Named for the Italian astronomer Giovanni Cassini, who discovered four of the moons and the gaps in Saturn’s rings, the craft vaporized in Saturn's atmosphere on September 15, 2017.Before it died, it sent back nearly half a million photos of many earthlings' favorite member of the solar system.Let's take a look at some of these images.
Uh-oh, the more sizeable opponent Andromeda is nextThe Milky Way was formed after it engulfed a dwarf galaxy known as Gaia-Enceledus 10 billion years ago, astroboffins have suggested.The very idea is discussed in a paper, published in Nature Astronomy on Monday, that describes our galaxy’s violent past.Elsewhere, at the same time, Gaia-Enceladus, a dwarf galaxy, was quietly unfolding, too.Since the Milky Way was the larger of the two, Gaia-Enceladus ended up being devoured.The cosmic super-prang jostled stars in both galaxies, and pushed at least some of them to the outer edges of the Milky Way, which is known as the stellar halo.
Our home galaxy is a cannibal.Recent evidence strongly suggests the Milky Way swallowed up a smaller galaxy, known as Gaia-Enceladus, during its early years, incorporating the galaxy's stars, gases and dust into its orbit.New research, from a collaboration of scientists in Europe, examined the ages of the stars across the Milky Way to more accurately determine how the galaxy formed.The research, published in journal Nature Astronomy on July 22, utilized a huge data set accumulated by the European Space Agency's Gaia spacecraft, which provides accurate measurements of the position, brightness and movement of stars.The research team, led by Carme Gallart of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias in Spain, was particularly interested in the Milky Way's "halo", a huge, spherical region of space surrounding the galaxy, and its "thick disk", a region full of stars that contains most of a spiral galaxy's mass.Previous research, published in Nature in 2018, found evidence that a huge population of stars within the halo region of the Milky Way were moving in a different direction to the rest of the galaxy's billions of stars.
The possibility that Saturn's moon Enceladus could support life has strengthened after researchers determined its ocean is likely 1 billion years old, placing it in the sweet spot.Speaking at the 2019 Astrobiology Science Conference last month, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center scientist Marc Neveu said that the time frame is long enough for life to have emerged on Enceladus."In the scenario that best matches the real moons, the ocean of Enceladus is about a billion years old," Neveu wrote in an abstract, discussing the research."That's good news for life: it should have had enough time to arise and there should still be some energy to power it."Speaking with Live Science, Neveu said he was surprised when the Cassini spacecraft had discovered an ocean on Enceladus, given its size."It's a very tiny moon and, in general, you expect tiny things to not be very active [but rather] like a dead block of rock and ice," he told the news outlet.
New research published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences bolsters the growing case that water worlds are a common feature of the Milky Way.Using computer simulations, Harvard University astronomer Li Zeng and his colleagues presented new data showing that sub-Neptune-sized planets, that is, planets featuring radii about two to four times that of Earth, are likely to be water worlds, and not gas dwarfs surrounded by thick atmospheres as conventionally believed.Unless, of course, we include Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, both of which are presumed to have global oceans wrapped in an icy crust.Research from 2017, for example, suggested most habitable Earth-like planets may in fact be water worlds.This data is pointing to two dominant types of exoplanets ranging between one and four times the size of Earth: dense rocky worlds (so-called super-Earths) or intermediate-sized planets with relatively low densities.The new computer models, however, suggested these sub-Neptunes should feature very modest atmospheres in terms of size—certainly nothing on the scale of a gas dwarf.
Shortly before it plunged into Saturn's atmosphere in late 2017, NASA's Cassini spacecraft made an incredible observation about the ringed planet's moon, Titan – its lakes are extraordinarily deep and filled with methane.Titan, Saturn's largest moon and the second-largest natural satellite in the Solar System behind Jupiter's moon Ganymede, has methane rain that can fill lakes as much as 330 feet deep, according to a new study published in the scientific journal Astronomy."Every time we make discoveries on Titan, Titan becomes more and more mysterious," said lead author Marco Mastrogiuseppe, Cassini radar scientist at Caltech in a statement."But these new measurements help give an answer to a few key questions.We can actually now better understand the hydrology of Titan."SCIENTISTS HAVE FOUND THE 'BUILDING BLOCKS' FOR LIFE ON SATURN'S MOON ENCELADUS
New research from NASA has re-created the conditions thought to exist where life originated on Earth — deep on the ocean floor 4 billion years ago.The study can provide insight not only into the development of life here, but also wherever else in the universe life could be found.The research involved simulating in a lab the hydrothermal vents which are found on the ocean floor.These hydrothermal vents are found near cracks in the ocean floor which release hot fluid that has been warmed beneath the planet’s crust.The vents form natural chimneys for this hot fluid which interacts with the surrounding seawater to create nurseries for amino acids — the building blocks of life.Such vents are thought to be where life originated due to the mix of chemicals that they offer and the conditions of flux around them which allow life to adapt and change.