Apr 13, 2017

NASA: Saturn's moon Enceladus could support life


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.

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U.S. enters 6th day of nationwide protests over George Floyd's killing

A protest in Philadelphia on May 31. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The D.C. National Guard is being called to assist police with protests, per AP, as protests continue past the city's 11 p.m. curfew.

What's happening: Police fired tear gas into a crowd of over 1,000 people in Washington, D.C.'s Lafayette Square across from the White House one hour before Sunday's 11 p.m. curfew, AP reports. Earlier in the night, protestors held a stand off in Lafayette Square, after previously breaking through a White House police barricade. A fire in the basement of the city's historic St. Johns Church was extinguished.

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Journalists get caught in the crosshairs as protests unfold

A man waves a Black Lives Matter flag atop the CNN logo outside the CNN Center during a protest in response to the police killing of George Floyd, Atlanta, Georgia, May 29. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Dozens of journalists across the country tweeted videos Saturday night of themselves and their crews getting arrested, being shot at by police with rubber bullets, targeted with tear gas by authorities or assaulted by protesters.

Driving the news: The violence got so bad over the weekend that on Sunday the Cleveland police said the media was not allowed downtown unless "they are inside their place of business" — drawing ire from news outlets around the country, who argued that such access is a critical part of adequately covering protests.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Tanker truck plows into Minneapolis protesters

The tanker after plowing into protesters on the shut-down bridge in Minneapolis on Sunday evening. Authorities said it appeared protesters escaped injury. Photo: Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Minnesota authorities said in a statement they're investigating as a criminal matter what happened with a truck that "drove into demonstrators" on a Minneapolis bridge Sunday evening while the eight-lane road was closed for a protest.

What they're saying: Minnesota Department of Public Safety tweeted, "Very disturbing actions by a truck driver on I-35W, inciting a crowd of peaceful demonstrators. The truck driver was injured & taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. He is under arrest. It doesn't appear any protesters were hit by the truck."