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NASA

Researchers unveiled evidence of hydrogen plumes on Saturn's moon Enceladus that are similar to deep sea hydrothermal vents on Earth that support primitive life. According to Linda Spilker, a Cassini Project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

"The hydrogen is coming from a hydrothermal vent on the seafloor of Enceladus, the hydrogen could be a source of energy for microbes that might be in Enceladus' ocean."

Potential for life on Jupiter's moon Europa, too: Hubble Space Telescope discovered a water plume on the warmest part of Europa's surface.

Why it matters: The most likely locations for life beyond Earth in our solar system may be these two moons.

The discovery of these hydrothermal vents on Enceladus was made by the Cassini spacecraft, which has been in orbit around Saturn for 14 years. It made a dive through one of Enceladus' plumes in 2015 and used a mass spectrometer to analyze the particles in it to gather this evidence.

How it works: Hydrogen would essentially serve as food for any microbes that might be in Enceladus' ocean. As rocks are exposed to warm water, they undergo a process known as "serpentinization," in which certain minerals rich in iron react with the the ocean and new minerals are produced, forming mineral precipitates.

What's next:

  • Enceladus: The Cassini mission is winding down this year, but researchers would like to confirm existence of phosphorous and sulfur and narrow down the pH on Enceladus.
  • Europa: Researchers want to launch a similar dive into its water plume to give Europa the same treatment as Enceladus.

Go deeper

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Winter view from Charlotte as winter storm Izzy creates dangerous conditions in Charlotte, N.C. on Jan. 16. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The big picture: Heavy snow and ice accumulations are "likely to produce hazardous travel," downed trees and more power outages from the Mid-South to the Northeast, per the National Weather Service. Some parts of the U.S. can expect to see up to a foot of snow through Monday.

Updated 4 hours ago - Science

Volcanic eruption in Tonga caused "significant" damage

This satellite image of the eruption on Jan. 15 taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). Photo: NICT via AP

Significant damage has been reported in Tonga following an undersea volcanic eruption on Saturday, which covered the Pacific nation in ash and cut off communication lines.

Driving the news: The eruption triggered tsunami warnings across Tonga's islands and in other regions, including the West Coast of the U.S. and New Zealand.

4 hours ago - World

North Korea launches 4th suspected missile test this month

A news broadcast in Seoul, South Korea, of an apparent North Korean missile test on Monday morning local time. Photo: Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea's military fired "two suspected short-range ballistic missiles" eastward from Pyongyang on Monday morning local time, per South Korean and Japanese officials.

Why it matters: The fourth such launch since Jan. 5 comes days after North Korea's military warned of "stronger" action if the U.S. moved to have more sanctions imposed on the country.