Current NASA Budget filenasa budget federal linesvg wikimedia commons NASA Current Budget

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Dr. Carolyn Porco, a planetary scientist and leader of the Imaging Science team for Cassini, explained to the press in March 2012 that "More than 90 jets of all sizes near Enceladus's south pole are spraying water vapor, icy particles, and organic compounds all over the place. Cassini has flown several times now through this spray and has tasted it. And we have found that aside from water and organic material, there is salt in the icy particles. The salinity is the same as that of Earth's oceans."



Galilean Moons Of Jupiter. One dark, clear January night in 1610, Galileo Galilei climbed to the roof of his house in Padua. He looked up at the sky that was speckled with the flickering fires of a multitude of starry objects, and then aimed his small, primitive "spyglass"--which was really one of the first telescopes--up at that star-blasted sky above his home. Over the course of several such starlit, clear winter nights, Galileo discovered the four large Galilean moons that circle around the largest planet in our Sun's family, the enormous, gaseous world, Jupiter. This intriguing quartet of moons--Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto--were named for four of the numerous mythic lovers of the King of the Roman gods.



When the American astronomer James Christy discovered Pluto's largest moon Charon back in 1978, astronomers were quick to calculate the mass of the system. Pluto's mass was hundreds of times smaller than the mass originally estimated for it when it was first discovered in 1930. With Charon's discovery, astronomers suddenly acquired a new understanding that something was fundamentally different about Pluto.

A moon is a natural body that is in orbit around a planet, and it is kept in place by both the host planet's gravity and the gravity of the moon itself. Some planets possess orbiting moons; some do not. There are several theories explaining how Earth's Moon came to be. At this point, the favored model is termed the giant impact theory, often playfully called the Big Whack or Big Splash theory by astronomers when they are in a humorous frame of mind. These funny nicknames were derived from the central tenet of the theory, which is that a Mars-sized body, named Theia, smacked into the primordial Earth billions of years ago. The collision caused part of our planet's crust to be hurled violently into space. Some of this shattered, somersaulting debris was snared into Earth-orbit, where it formed a host of moonlets that were ultimately pulled together by gravity to evolve into our Moon.



The hydrothermal vents on Earth's seafloor shoot out mineral-laden, hot fluid. This sustains some very unusual and unique forms of life--such as the wavy, wormish tubeworms--and other creatures that are able to thrive in this strange environment. Microbes can convert mineral-laden fluid into metabolic energy, making these ecosystems possible--both on Earth's seafloor and elsewhere.



"Hydrogen is a source of chemical energy for microbes that live in the Earth's oceans near hydrothermal vents. Our results indicate the same chemical energy source is present in the ocean of Enceladus. We have not found evidence of the presence of microbial life in the ocean of Enceladus, but the discovery of hydrogen gas and the evidence for ongoing hydrothermal activity offer a tantalizing suggestion that habitable conditions could exist beneath the moon's icy crust," explained Dr. Hunter Waite in an April 13, 2017 Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) Press Release. Dr. Waite is principal investigator of Cassini's Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS), and lead author of the paper titled Cassini Finds Molecular Hydrogen in the Enceladus Plume: Evidence for Hydrothermal Processes. The SwRI is in San Antonio, Texas.

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