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Announced yesterday by NASA, Cassini has picked up evidence of molecular hydrogen in the water vapor plumes erupting from the Saturnian moon Enceladus, showing that the oceans under the icy shell of Enceladus contain ample supplies of chemical energy that could be used by living organisms to sustain life (in a process that would probably to be similar to methanogenesis employed by several groups of bacterial here on Earth). Just about all of the ingredients needed for life as we know it have been found on or around Enceladus. We're getting close! Also, in this same announcement is a discussion of the detection of plumes emerging from relatively warm areas on the surface of Europa (a moon of Jupiter) by Hubble, suggesting that, similar to what's happening on Enceladus, water vapor is escaping from the sub-ice ocean of Europa.

Two veteran NASA missions are providing new details about icy, ocean-bearing moons of Jupiter and Saturn, further heightening the scientific interest of these and other…