Searching for aliens is a tricky business. Most likely, the first alien life we discover will be hidden beneath miles of ocean on a distant world like Jupiter’s moon Europa or Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
That’s why the best way to search for alien life today is to find pieces of the puzzle that make up the larger picture. In recent years, NASA has done just that with its Cassini spacecraft.
Cassini first discovered evidence of a vast ocean on Enceladus by spotting plumes of water vapour jutting out of Enceladus’ surface. Now, the Cassini team has announced that this distant ocean contains hydrogen.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, so it might not come as a surprise it exists in the oceans of Enceladus. However, this hydrogen could serve a very important purpose: food for alien microbes.
That’s exactly what some of the hydrogen here on Earth does — it feeds microbes that live on the seafloor in extreme environments where sunlight can’t reach. So, the discovery of hydrogen on another water world is extremely exciting.
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