NASA’s Cassini spacecraft: Findings:
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has made the following discoveries in the moons of Saturn by flying through their plumes:
- Titan has methane in its atmosphere.
- Enceladus has a liquid ocean with erupting plumes of gas and water.
- Researchers have concluded that there may be unknown methane-producing processes on Enceladus that await discovery.
- Most of the methane on Earth has a biological origin. Microorganisms called methanogens are capable of generating methane as a metabolic byproduct.
- They do not require oxygen to live and are widely distributed in nature.
- Methanogens are found in swamps, dead organic matter, and even in the human gut. They are known to survive in high temperatures and simulation studies have shown that they can live in Martian conditions.
- Methane could be formed by the chemical breakdown of organic matter present in Enceladus’ core.
- Hydrothermal processes could help the formation of carbon dioxide and methane.
About Cassini Mission:
- Launched in 1997.
- The mission is a cooperation between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.
- This was the first landing ever accomplished in the outer Solar System.
- Cassini is the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter orbit.
- Its design includes a Saturn orbiter and a lander for the moon Titan. The lander, called Huygens, landed on Titan in 2005.