The potential for life has been discovered on Saturn’s moon Enceladus as geysers spouting through the surface revealed longer ions indicative of water that was in motion. The discovery has suggested a massive underground ocean of water that remains unfrozen. Many scientists are suggesting this is some of the strongest evidence for life elsewhere in the Solar System.
Where there’s smoke there’s fire, so the saying goes. And where there’s liquid water, carbon, and energy there could be life. The energy could be supplied from the sun, or it could be supplied by a molten core of geothermal energy that keeps the water around it liquid.
The discovery was made when the space probe Cassini gathered data from the icy spray of one of the moon’s geysers using a device called a plasma spectrometer, which detects ionized water as it was dropped through the plume. It detected the temperature and speed of the plume’s ions and electrons, sending back data that stunned Earth scientists.
The Cassini probe was funded by NASA, the Italian Space Agency, and the European Space Agency. Unfortunately blanket budget cuts in space exploration by all three groups in light of recent economic woes means programs such as Cassini may not be able to continue to collect data and send it back to Earth. Less than a month ago NASA’s funding was cut to such a degree that its continued operation at its current capacity seems impossible without appealing to private sectors for additional funds.
With additional funding, joint ventures of space programs could study the subsurface of bodies such as these and even acquire data that could lead to the discovery of some form of microbial life beneath the surface.. Such a discovery would be an enormous step toward vindication of claims of alien contact, but would in itself be an incredible discovery as it would make the statistical likelihood of life existing outside our planet suddenly several factors greater. If discovery of other planets with even the most rudimentary of life forms on it happens, then it stands to reason that these organisms could with time become more and more complex and even intelligent as time goes on. And then our planet is a lot less lonely in the greater scheme of things.
Titan, another moon orbiting Saturn is considered to be another incredibly likely candidate for life elsewhere within the Solar system was also studied during the Cassini mission and has a dense atmosphere making it difficult to examine prior to Cassini’s flyby in 2004. It seems Saturn has several possibilities in the satellites dancing about it. The gaseous giant itself isn’t expected to have life present as gravity is far too hostile for any form of life we currently understand to survive within currently.
Will future probes be able to discover more about the surface of Enceladus and possibly even dive into the oceans beneath the moon’s crust to discover what microbial forms of life may exist within? It depends on if space agencies will receive enough government funding or funding by private ventures.