Friday, March 30, 2012

Snowing Microbes

Of all the places in our solar system (besides Earth) that are most likely to harbor life, none is better than Enceladus, Sat­urn’s sixth largest moon. Although extremely cold, it has been recording spouting geyser-like plumes of liquid water high into the air. Enceladus is one of only a few other places in our solar system with recorded geologic activity.
Although it is so very cold on Enceladus, that does not have researchers worried, because we have life here in our arctic oceans on Earth.
The lucky thing about the water being sprayed into the air also means that the probes that have been sent to Enceladus do not even need to land! All they have to do is fly through the spray to gather their samples and analyze the liquid. With the envi­ronment being so cold, however, all of the spray is probably being frozen into snow in the atmosphere. 
There are also concerns that perhaps the oceans are far too acidic to support life, but again, it may be possible for mi­crobes to survive in such conditions.
Microbes, are, in fact, what the researchers are looking for; millions of microscopic bacteria and other organisms that live just about everywhere here on Earth. As the water is likely being spurted from the oceans beneath the frozen surface of the planet, any life held within them would be blown up into the atmosphere in the geysers.
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