In their subsequent analysis, scientists ruled out a number of explanations for the hydrogen and concluded that it most likely formed from the interaction between warm water near a rocky core of the moon, akin to the hydrothermal vents in Earth’s oceans. On Earth, large communities of microbes thrive near these vents, subsisting through a process known as methanogenesis. These organisms use carbon dioxide and hydrogen to create methane, a chemical reaction that imparts a jolt of energy for the microbe. This is how they can survive without any Solar energy.
Could such a process be unfolding within the oceans of Enceladus? Definitely, scientists said Thursday during a briefing held by NASA. Astrobiologists believe life as we know it requires water, chemical elements to make the building blocks of cells, and chemical energy. Saturn’s small moon, which is only about 500km in diameter, has all three. “Now all we need to know is if Enceladus has had enough time to evolve life and make an imprint,” said Mary Voytek, an astrobiology senior scientist at NASA Headquarters.