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NASA identifies a Moon orbiting Saturn as a new candidate for Potential Life

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FILE - The Cassini spacecraft captured this of Saturn's moon Enceladus, in a flyby Oct. 28, 2015. The U.S.-European spacecraft skimmed within 30 miles of the south pole. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute via AP) VOA
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US, April 16, 2017: The U.S. space agency NASA has identified a moon orbiting Saturn as a new candidate for potential life.

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft said the icy, ocean-covered body possesses ample amounts of hydrogen gas. The gas could be a chemical energy source of life, scientists involved with the mission said.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, called Saturn’s moon Enceladus “the closest we’ve come” to identifying a planet with the necessary ingredients for a habitable planet.

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“These results demonstrate the interconnected nature of NASA’s science missions that are getting us closer to answering whether we are indeed alone or not,” he said in a statement.

The paper from researchers with the Cassini mission was published Thursday in the journal Science.

FILE – This image provided by NASA is a Hubble Space Telescope close-up of Saturn’s disk, and it captures the transit of several moons across the planet’s face. The giant orange moon Titan is at upper right. The white icy moons close to the ring plane are, from left, Enceladus, Dione and Mimas. The dark band running across the face of the planet slightly above the rings is the shadow of the rings cast on the planet. The dark dots are the shadows cast by Enceladus and Dione. VOA

Plume analyzed

The Cassini spacecraft detected the hydrogen in a plume of gas and icy material spraying off Enceladus in October 2015. Scientists determined the gas in the plume nearly 98 percent water, about 1 percent of which is hydrogen, with the rest being a mixture of carbon dioxide, methane and ammonia.

The scientists noted that “life as we know it requires three primary ingredients”: liquid water, a source of energy for metabolism, and a combination of chemical ingredients that include hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen, among others.

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“With this finding, Cassini has shown that Enceladus — a small, icy moon a billion miles farther from the sun than Earth — has nearly all of these ingredients for habitability,” NASA said in a statement announcing the findings.

While some ingredients for life were found on Enceladus, the scientists made clear that the discovery didn’t confirm life on the planet, but merely confirmed favorable conditions.

“Although we can’t detect life, we’ve found that there’s a food source there for it. It would be like a candy store for microbes,” said Hunter Waite, lead author of the Cassini study. (VOA)

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Scientists Track ‘Ghost Particle’ to Source for First Time

The blazar that is considered the source of the neutrino was named TXS 0506+056 and is believed to be the first known source of a high-energy neutrino

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This artist's impression of the active galactic nucleus shows the supermassive black hole at the center of the accretion disk sending a narrow high-energy jet of matter into space, perpendicular to the disc in this image by Science Communication Lab in Kiel, Germany, released on July 12, 2018. In a study published in the journal Science, researchers have determined that a supermassive black hole like this one is the source of high-energy neutrinos detected on Earth. (VOA)

Scientists have announced a new finding about the source of a high-energy neutrino, a subatomic particle detected at an observatory at the Earth’s South Pole.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, details the work of more than 1,000 scientists who pooled their research on the tiny particles, which are able to pass through matter in a straight line — like a ghost.

The neutrino’s ability to travel without deviation from its course means its source can be accurately tracked, unlike other types of subatomic particles that can be dragged off course by a magnetic field like the Earth’s.

“[Neutrinos are] very clean, they have simple interactions, and that means every single neutrino interaction tells you something,” said Heidi Schellman, a particle physicist at Oregon State University.

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The scientists used a large observatory known as IceCube, in use since 2010, to hunt for neutrinos and try to track the source. A group of neutrinos coming from the same location over the past couple of years was determined to have emanated from a blazar, or black hole that aims a jet of radiation at Earth. The black hole is estimated to have been in a distant galaxy that destructed four billion years ago.

The blazar that is considered the source of the neutrino was named TXS 0506+056 and is believed to be the first known source of a high-energy neutrino.

The discovery could be a breakthrough for multimessenger astronomy, where scientists look at the entire electromagnetic spectrum and pool their findings, using known relationships between types of electromagnetic particles to put together a larger picture.

“It is an entirely new means for us to learn about the cosmos,” Roopesh Ojha of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center told The Washington Post. (VOA)