A tiny, icy ocean world orbiting Saturn is now a hotter-than-ever candidate for potential alien life.
In the final stages of its 13-year-long exploration, Cassini continued its voyage to discover that there is a salty, global ocean under Enceladus' icy crust.
With all of this optimism, the fact remains that NASA has not discovered any evidence of living organisms living on Enceladus. Water is known to exist on this moon of saturn. Plumes of water vapor spew from cracks at the moon's south pole.
Sunlight doesn't reach all hydrothermal vents here on our planet yet despite the lack of light, it's not uncommon to find a thriving community of life near such vents. These observations show that almost 98 percent of the gas in the plume is water, about 1 percent is hydrogen and the rest is carbon dioxide, methane, and ammonia. The researchers reported that the hydrogen, along with carbon dioxide that was also found, could mean that undersea microorganisms are producing methane.
Want to learn more about today's announcement of molecular hydrogen on Enceladus?
An illustration of Cassini above Saturn.
The Cassini mission is scheduled to end in early September.
NASA's Cassini mission is soon about to wind up with the craft whirling into saturn's environs.
"Hydrogen is a source of chemical energy for microbes that live in the Earth's oceans near hydrothermal vents", said SwRI's Dr. Hunter Waite, principal investigator of Cassini's Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS).
A press conference viewer, asking questions of the scientists via Twitter, asked if NASA was talking about bacteria or algae - or giant squids.
"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", he said in a statement. "We're going to start with bacteria and, if we get lucky, maybe there's something that's larger".
A photograph of Enceladus taken by Cassini in November 2016.
Cassini, NASA said, was never created to detect signs of life, but rather to simply record data of Saturn.
"After Hubble imaged this new plume-like feature on Europa, we looked at that location on the Galileo thermal map". It's set to launch sometime in the 2020s.
According to NASA, this chemical reaction is 'the root of the tree of life on Earth, ' and it may have served a vital role in the formation of life here.
However, the scientists think that because the planet is young, there may not have been time for life to emerge.