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Cassini Enceladus flyby: Saturn's moon to be examined for the 'ingredients of life'

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posted on Oct, 26 2015 @ 12:40 PM

A spacecraft is to be sent through a fountain of icy spray that is coming out of an alien ocean that could have life within it.

The Cassini craft is to fly past Saturn’s moon Enceladus. And scientists hope that it can come to understand the makeup of the mysterious watery world, which some scientists think could have life beneath its surface.

Scientists have already confirmed that there is an ocean covering its entire globe, underneath its icy shell.

I think it will happen on Wednesday. Some Scientist think that the plumes of ice has an extraterrestrial origin.

One of Cassini's chief missions is to find evidence of hydrothermal activity on Enceladus.

Dr Hunter Waite, from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas - who is team leader for the craft's neutral mass spectrometer instrument (INMS), said: "Confirmation of molecular hydrogen in the plume would be an independent line of evidence that hydrothermal activity is taking place in the Enceladus ocean, on the seafloor.

Space exploration is definitely interesting and we're finding things that point to a universe that's not only friendly to life but it seems to favor conditions for life to exist.

You have the discovery that life may have began on Earth 300 million years earlier than was previously thought. There's also more evidence that supports Panspermia or maybe the building blocks of life are already formed before the planet comes into existence in proto-planetary nebula. I always thought the idea that life somehow formed from a spark and earth miraculously went from non life to life, didn't make any sense. These things show that life is probably more abundant than anyone ever thought.

The basic building blocks of life may have been present on Earth from the very beginning.

Astronomers detected 21 different complex organic molecules streaming from Comet Lovejoy during its highly anticipated close approach to the sun this past January. Many of these same carbon-containing compounds have also been spotted around newly forming sunlike stars, researchers said.

"This suggests that our proto-planetary nebula was already enriched in complex organic molecules (as disk models suggested) when comets and planets formed," study lead author Nicolas Biver, of the Paris Observatory, told via email

This makes it even more likely that we will eventually find microbial life and intelligent life on other planets. This is because, life is something that is already present when planets form or it's bombarded with the building blocks of life through Panspermia.

Life then adapts to it's environment. The old notion was that life formed because earth had the "right conditions." This seems to be false and this is why were finding extremophiles in all sorts of places where we thought life couldn't exist.

thermophiles: survive at temperatures between 120° and 160° Fahrenheit
hyperthermophiles: survive at temperatures between 175° and 235° Fahrenheit
psychrophiles: survive at temperatures between 25° and 39° Fahrenheit
acidophiles: survive under high acidity conditions
alkalophiles: survive under extreme alkaline conditions
halophiles: survive in environments containing 20–30 percent salt
barophiles: survive at pressures 300–700 times sea level air pressure
radiotolerants: can survive a high radioactive environment
xerophiles: can survive in extremely dry environments
metalotolerants: can survive high levels of dissolved heavy metals

What this shows us is life finds a way. It adapts to it's environment. It doesn't form because of some magic spark. So life can find it's way to intelligent beings like us in say 4 billion years and on another planet, it might find it's way to intelligent life in a shorter or longer period of time.

On top of that, the universe is filled with places hospitable to life.


Astronomers estimate 100 billion habitable Earth-like planets in the Milky Way, 50 sextillion in the universe

So to me, it's a no brainer that the universe is filled with microbial and intelligent life based on what we know now and the fact the universe favors earth sized planets over Jupiter sized planets.
edit on 26-10-2015 by neoholographic because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 26 2015 @ 01:16 PM
I saw the word ingredients and suddenly I was clicking away thinking I might find a good pork roast recipe. Upon clicking, to my dismay there was not.

However, with 50 Sextrillion potential habitable planets, surely there's one or two pork filled planets out there. There's hope yet!

....crap, am I thinking with my tummy again?

posted on Oct, 26 2015 @ 05:13 PM
a reply to: neoholographic

NASA already did a similar thing with a Cassini flyby 7 years ago.

Cassini Tastes Organic Material at Saturn's Geyser Moon (2008 article)

I made a thread about it back then. The analysis of the water during that pass through the plumes 7 years ago did in fact turn up organic molecules:

A few years ago, NASA astrobiologist Chris McCay had suggested a potential sample return mission of material collected from the plumes of Enceladus, although nothing yet has come of it. Such a mission would be relatively inexpensive and but take time:

Low Cost Enceladus Sample Return Mission Concept
Note: Link opens directly to PDF file

McCay speaking about the potential for life on Enceledus:

"It just about ticks every box you have when it comes to looking for life on another world," says Nasa astrobiologist Chris McKay. "It has got liquid water, organic material and a source of heat. It is hard to think of anything more enticing short of receiving a radio signal from aliens on Enceladus telling us to come and get them."

Cassini's observations suggest Enceladus possesses a subterranean ocean that is kept liquid by the moon's internal heat. "We are not sure where that energy is coming from," McKay admits. "The source is producing around 16 gigawatts of power and looks very like the geothermal energy sources we have on Earth – like the deep vents we see in our ocean beds and which bubble up hot gases."

Enceladus: home of alien lifeforms?

edit on 10/26/2015 by Soylent Green Is People because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 27 2015 @ 10:46 AM
You can keep abreast with the latest raw images coming from Cassini (hopefully including the ones from upcoming geyser fly-though) at

The latest raw image of Enceladus (which is focused on those geysers) -

posted on Oct, 27 2015 @ 01:12 PM
a reply to: wildespace

Thanks for the links. Can't wait to see what happens.

posted on Oct, 27 2015 @ 01:22 PM
a reply to: Soylent Green Is People

There are other scientists along with Chris McKay who are very excited about the organic molecules found in the plumes and the saltwater ocean that they think exists beneath the surface.

After Cassini took yet another pass through the geyser plumes in 2012 to "taste" the organics that are known to be in those plumes, planetary scientist Carolyn Porco said this:

“Cassini has flown several times now through this spray and has tasted it. And we have found that aside from water and organic material, there is salt in the icy particles. The salinity is the same as that of Earth’s oceans.

“In the end, it’s the most promising place I know of for an astrobiology search,” said Porco.

More information:
NASA Article: Is it Snowing Microbes on Enceladus?

I know Porco and Chris McKay are excited about the prospects of life on Enceladus, and I'm a little disappointed that it seems as if McKay's proposed sample return mission is not very high on NASA's radar.

edit on 10/27/2015 by Box of Rain because: spelling

posted on Oct, 27 2015 @ 01:24 PM
a reply to: Soylent Green Is People

Nice 2008 thread and well worth the read for anyone interested in this subject. It was and is underseen, not even a page long (flagged it) - this type of news is so huge in the interest-area of space exploration that it seems these threads, this thread and yours, should be dozens of pages long with over 50 flags. Exciting news, and looking forward to the fly-thru.

posted on Oct, 28 2015 @ 04:55 AM

5 hours and counting

posted on Oct, 29 2015 @ 03:23 AM

Mission success!

Bolting by Enceladus at 19,000 mph, the plutonium-powered Cassini space probe was expected to only pass through the icy plumes for a few tens of seconds, scientists said, but the orbiter was programmed to execute a tightly-choreographed observation sequence to measure the chemical constituents of the eruption cloud and capture a series of images.

Pictures from the flyby are expected in 24 to 48 hours, NASA said late Wednesday.
Spaceflight link

— Scientists also expect to better understand the chemistry of the plume as a result of the flyby. The low altitude of the encounter is, in part, intended to afford Cassini greater sensitivity to heavier more massive molecules, including organics, than the spacecraft has observed during previous higher-altitude passes through the plume.

— The flyby will help solve the mystery of whether the plume is composed of column-like individual jets or sinuous icy curtain eruptions or a combination of both. The answer would make clearer how material is getting to the surface from the ocean below.

— Researchers are not sure how much icy material the plumes are actually spraying into space. The amount of activity has major implications for how long Enceladus might have been active. link

posted on Oct, 29 2015 @ 07:11 AM
a reply to: Kandinsky

That's good news.

I've always thought that a mission to Enceladus should be more of a priority than a mission to Europa. The potentially microbe-bearing water from Enceladus is right there for the taking (and sampling), while the water on Europa is trapped under what may be miles of ice.

Plus, we know for a fact now that the water from Enceladus contains organic materials. We don't have such a confirmation from Europa. Also, we know that The water from Enceladus is salty like our own oceans. This means the water-soluble minerals of Enceladus' crust are providing potential life-nutrients into that water.

edit on 10/29/2015 by Soylent Green Is People because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 29 2015 @ 07:22 AM
a reply to: Soylent Green Is People

It's cool isn't it? Just looking forward for the images to be published in the next day or so. They've been knockout so far, just such high quality.

The sheer expertise of what they are achieving recently is wonderful. Landing on comets, visiting Pluto and flying through small plumes of Enceladus; it really feels like a peak era.

posted on Oct, 30 2015 @ 12:02 PM
Raw images are coming in, so here's a quick colour composite I threw up using images taken through infrared, green, and UV filters (they seem to be favouring those over the plain good old red/green/blue filters for "true-colour" images):

This filter arrangement gives a bluish hue to the freshly-exposed ices in the cracks and ridges, meaning they absorb some infrared and reflect some UV light.

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