COM­MENT

Sky at Night Magazine - - BULLETIN - by Chris Lin­tott CHRIS LIN­TOTT co­p­re­sents The Sky at Night

With such ex­cit­ing re­sults com­ing from the end of the Cassini mis­sion, it’s de­press­ing that nei­ther NASA nor ESA are plan­ning a re­turn to the Satur­nian sys­tem. The prob­lem, of course, is find­ing funding – and part of the so­lu­tion is ty­ing ev­ery re­sult to­gether as be­ing progress in a search for life.

Yet the pres­ence of hy­dro­gen in Enceladus’s plumes need not point to a thriv­ing colony of space wee­vils liv­ing a fine life around sea floor vents. In­deed, it may sug­gest the op­po­site – any thriv­ing ecosys­tem would be ef­fi­cient in us­ing up hy­dro­gen and so the fact we see it in the plumes is an ar­gu­ment for the ab­sence of life.

Which ar­gu­ment is right? I don’t know, and it doesn’t mat­ter. It’s clear that Enceladus is a fas­ci­nat­ing, com­plex world and we should go back soon. Not be­cause it re­minds us of Earth, but be­cause it has its own story to tell.

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