Cassini Discovers Oxygen Around Saturn's Moon

By Meera Dolasia on November 28, 2010

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NASA's Cassini Spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn for about six years, has not only sent back amazing pictures, but also, exciting discoveries about the ringed planet. Just a few months back, the spacecraft found evidence of alien life on Titan, Saturn's largest moon and now, it seems that Rhea, its second largest moon has an atmosphere similar to that of Earth.

Earlier this week, scientists revealed the Rhea's thin atmosphere comprised of carbon dioxide and oxygen. This is the first time a spacecraft has been able capture direct evidence of oxygen on a planet other than Earth. Previously the only evidence of oxygen has been gleaned from wisps detected by the Hubble Telescope.

The scientists believe that the oxygen in Rhea's atmosphere is derived from the ice off the surface of the frozen moon. As Saturn's magnetic field rotates around the moon it showers it with energetic particles. When these hit Rhea, they break the water molecules on its surface, releasing the oxygen. The carbon dioxide could be the result of carbon rich materials deposited by meteors that smash against the moon's surface or simply, the release of dry ice that is trapped inside.

While this is great news, the scientists also concluded that the atmosphere around Rhea's 1500 km circumference, is about 5 trillion times less dense than that of Earth and therefore, not enough to sustain life. However, what it does prove is that there could be other planets in our Universe or Solar System, with similar atmospheres, raising the probability of alien life.

This is probably not the last we hear about the fascinating finds on Saturn. The Cassini Solstice Mission is expected to continue until September 2017 and besides exploring Saturn's moons, it will also analyze its infamous rings, before the mission is completed - So stay tuned, for more fascinating news.


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  • seanWednesday, March 2, 2016 at 12:36 pm
    if I could travel to the moon titan I would take a big bite of it (probably the whole thing and a lot of aliens)!
    • lolSunday, February 28, 2016 at 8:55 am
      epic epic epic for real
      • frogking58Wednesday, November 11, 2015 at 12:14 pm
        favorit planet
        • dangWednesday, November 11, 2015 at 12:13 pm
          im going to live there
          • LOLOLTuesday, October 20, 2015 at 2:40 pm
            • sparklesky
              sparkleskyFriday, September 25, 2015 at 6:44 am
              nope there is no life on titan or suturn not true for real God created us and he made this world better now look outside! birds singing fresh air,I just love it!Glory to God allmighty!
              • super_jeep
                super_jeepThursday, October 8, 2015 at 10:53 am
                Totaly correct sparklesey!! 10 trillion likes! (not saracasm)
              • HiFriday, September 11, 2015 at 7:23 am
                Why am I alwas a robot
                • diamondkid
                  diamondkidMonday, March 2, 2015 at 5:47 pm
                  That will be easier for scientists!
                  • StuffSaturday, February 7, 2015 at 12:23 pm
                    pretty cool
                    • raykickerWednesday, September 10, 2014 at 7:43 am

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