You don’t wanna talk? Don’t talk. You wanna throw me off the boat? Throw me off. You wanna tell me I don’t know what I’m doing? I know I don’t. I have no idea why the ocean chose me, you’re right. But my island is dying, so I am here. It’s just me and you and I want to help… But I can’t, if you don’t let me.
We’re incredibly lucky to live on a planet
drenched in water, nestled in a perfect distance from our sun and wrapped with
magnetic fields keeping our atmosphere intact against harsh radiation and space
We know from recent research that life can
persist in the cruelest of environments here on Earth, which gives us hope to
finding life thriving on other worlds. While we have yet to find life outside
of Earth, we are optimistic about the possibilities, especially on other ocean
worlds right here in our solar system.
So…What’s the News?!
Two of our veteran missions are providing
tantalizing new details about icy, ocean-bearing moons of Jupiter and Saturn,
further enhancing the scientific interest of these and other “ocean worlds” in
our solar system and beyond!
scientists announce that a form of energy for life appears to exist in Saturn’s
moon Enceladus, and Hubble
researchers report additional evidence of plumes erupting from Jupiter’s moon
The Two Missions: Cassini and Hubble
spacecraft has found that hydrothermal vents in the ocean of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus
are producing hydrogen gas, which could potentially provide a chemical energy
source for life.
Cassini discovered that this little moon of
Saturn was active in 2005. The discovery that Enceladus has jets of gas and icy
particles coming out of its south polar region surprised the world. Later we
determined that plumes of material are coming from a global ocean under the icy
crust, through large cracks known as “tiger stripes.”
We have more evidence now – this time sampled
straight from the plume itself – of hydrothermal activity, and we now know the
water is chemically interacting with the rock beneath the ocean and producing
the kind of chemistry that could be used by microbes IF they happened to be
This is the culmination of 12 years of
investigations by Cassini and a capstone finding for the mission. We now know Enceladus
has nearly all the ingredients needed for life as we know it.
The Cassini spacecraft made its deepest dive
through the plume on Oct. 28, 2015. From previous flybys, Cassini determined
that nearly 98% of the gas in the plume is water and the rest is a mixture of
other molecules, including carbon dioxide, methane and ammonia.
instruments provided evidence of hydrothermal activity in the ocean. What we
really wanted to know was…Is there hydrogen being produced that microbes could
use to make energy? And that’s exactly what we found!
To be clear…we haven’t discovered microbes at
Enceladus, but vents of this type at Earth host these kinds of life. We’re
cautiously excited at the prospect that there might be something like this at
Europa is one of the four major moons of
Jupiter, about the size of our own moon but very different in appearance. It’s
a cold, icy world with a relatively smooth, bright surface crisscrossed with
dark cracks and patches of reddish material.
What makes Europa interesting is that it’s believed
to have a global ocean, underneath a thick crust of ice. In fact, it’s got
about twice as much ocean as planet Earth!
In 2014, we detected evidence of intermittent
water plumes on the surface of Europa, which is interesting because they may
provide us with easier access to subsurface liquid water without having to
drill through miles of ice.
And now, in 2016, we’ve found one particular
plume candidate that appears to be at the same location that it
was seen in 2014.
This is exciting because if we can establish that a
particular feature does repeat, then it is much more likely to be real and we
can attempt to study and understand the processes that cause it to turn on or
This plume also happens to coincide with an
area where Europa is unusually warm as compared to the surrounding terrain. The
plume candidates are about 30 to 60 miles (50 to 100 kilometers) in height and are well-positioned for
observation, being in a relatively equatorial and well-determined location.
What Does All This Mean and What’s Next?
Hubble and Cassini are inherently different
missions, but their complementary scientific discoveries, along with the synergy
between our current and planned missions, will help us in finding out whether
we are alone in the universe.
Hubble will continue to observe Europa. If
you’re wondering how we might be able to get more information on the Europa
plume, the upcoming Europa Clipper mission
will be carrying
a suite of 9 instruments to investigate whether the mysterious icy moon could harbor conditions favorable for life. Europa Clipper is slated to launch in the 2020s.
This future mission will be able to study the
surface of Europa in great detail and assess the habitability of this moon.
Whether there’s life there or not is a question for this future mission to
I appreciate that climate change gets a lot of attention (possibly because it has the potential to have the highest economic costs if left unchecked) but it is my duty to remind everyone that the biggest threat to wildlife and ecosystems today is habitat loss. Not climate change. Not trophy hunting. Not even pollution–though a habitat can become so degraded from pollution that it becomes unusable.
The very best way to curb global destruction of habitat is to implement large-scale changes to our development patterns, energy production, and agricultural system. So be sure to support those efforts politically. You can also support sustainable, multi-use development in your communities(many municipalities talk about community-wide projects at city counsel meetings!). Live densely. Eat less meat. Call out self driving cars for the sprawl-supporting pact with satan that they are. Support public transportation! Don’t support sprawl and McMansions! Recognize that suburbia in general and lawns in particular are a facsimile of greenness that destroy actual usable habitat and replace it with sterile monocultures that require gallons of water, pesticides, and fertilizer to maintain. Stop using products with
altogether. Make your yard wildlife-friendly. Consider a brush pile. Keep your damn cats indoors. Plant native plants. Remove invasive plants. Maybe don’t freak out and call animal control every time you see a bat or snake or coyote in your neighborhood since they were literally there first and we’ve left them no place else to go. Watch out for herps crossing the roads in the breeding season, especially our salamanders. Plant a NATIVE tree. Support your local parks, forests, and waterways, big and small.
“ can you believe they posted that status about me? who do they think they are? ”
“ can you believe she/he has the nerve to throw a party and not invite me? ”
“ i don’t care, i’m having a party and only cool people can come. ”
“ um, you’ve been excluded from this conversation, see your way out. ”
“ i don’t have the time to worry about this nonsense. ”
“ it wasn’t to indirect because you caught onto it, so. ”
“ if you’re going to post a status about me, use the @ symbol next time. ”
“ i hate her/him so much, i want to destroy them. ”
“ i will go down in history for ruining them if it’s the last thing i do. ”
“ people get on my nerves so much. this is why i’m antisocial. ”
“ i hate social media sometimes, always ruins my mood. ”
“ i hate logging in to stuff because i get the ultra mega mood drop. ”
“ excuse me? want to run that by me one more time? ”
“ if you got something to say, speak up. ”
“ i’m sorry what was that? can’t hear you when you’re whispering. ”
“ don’t whisper about me when i’m in the room. ”
“ yeah, i’m right here and can hear you. ”
“ please, don’t talk to me. i’m not in the mood today. ”
“ i’m going to either stab someone or break down and cry today. ”
“ i’m so done with this drama. you’re all fake. ”
“ stop making call out posts about me, you have my number and address. ”
“ i can’t believe all this drama always finds me. ”
“ i didn’t post that stupid status! i told you i was hacked! ”
“ omg, please go away already. ”
“ all these flavors and you chose to be salty. ”
“ want some grease to go with all that salt? ”
“ my fries could use some of your salt. ”
“ why buy salt, when i have you? ”
“ if you could stop being so salty, that’d be great. ”
“ the salt is strong with this one. ”
“ oh i’m sorry you’re so salty about it. ”
“ what could you possibly do with all that salt? ”
“ you have enough salt for the both of us. ”
“ you stay salty, my friend. ”
“ forever salty, is what you are. ”
“ you must like your popcorn like you like yourself; salty. ”
“ will you ever not be salty, one could only wish. ”
“ you have more salt than the pacific ocean right now. ”
“ do yourself a favor and go wash all that salt off. ”
“ you’re saltier than most foods i consume. ”
“ when is there a day that you aren’t feeling salty? ”
“ you’re always so salty. ”
“ stop being so salty. ”