Planetary scientist Francis Nimmo says evidence from recent NASA expeditions suggests that conditions necessary for life may exist on the icy satellites of Saturn and Jupiter. “’If these moons are habitable, it changes the whole idea of the habitable zone,’ said Nimmo, a professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UC Santa Cruz. ‘It changes our thinking about how and where we might find life outside of the solar system.’ Nimmo discussed the impact of ice dynamics on the habitability of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter on Tuesday, December 15, at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, in particular, have attracted attention because of evidence that oceans of liquid water may lie beneath their icy surfaces. This evidence, plus discoveries of deep-sea hydrothermal vent communities on Earth, suggests to some that these frozen moons just might harbor life. ‘Liquid water is the one requirement for life that everyone can agree on,’ Nimmo said.”
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