Cassini's Search For Life

  • Posted 09.15.17
  • NOVA

Is there life beyond Earth? The solar system's ocean worlds might be the most promising place to look.

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Running Time: 02:27

Transcript

On Screen: Where is the best place to search for life beyond Earth?

Caleb Scharf: There are ocean worlds in the outer solar system; places that contain interior bodies of liquid water.

On Screen: Some ocean worlds are moons orbiting Jupiter or Saturn.

Caleb Scharf: Moons like Europe, Titan and Enceladus contain a great ocean of water sealed beneath an icy crust.

On Screen: Enceladus is one of Saturn’s many moons. The Cassini spacecraft flew close to the tiny, icy moon.

Linda Spilker: We came within a hundred seventy-five kilometers of Enceladus’ surface and there the surprises just opened up this world.

Carolyn Porco: It would be as if on Earth we found there was more heat coming from Antarctica than there was from the equator.

Linda Spilker: We finally realized our images were showing us jets of material, geysers, coming out of the South Pole of Enceladus. It was jaw dropping. We just sat there in amazement.

On Screen: The geysers shoot out from fissures in the ice fed by an ocean below.

Carolyn Porco: We know that it’s a salty ocean with salinity comparable to out Earth’s ocean.

On Screen: And Enceladus may have even more in common with Earth.

Carolyn Porco: There is even evidence in the plume of material that we’ve sampled for hydrothermal activity at the sea floor of Enceladus. Enceladus checks all the boxes. It has organics, it has liquid water, it has biologically available nitrogen.

On Screen: And there is an even bigger ocean beneath the ice of Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

Alex Hayes: On Europa there is a factor of a few times more liquid water in its ocean than there is on the Earth’s oceans.

Caleb Scharf: These ocean worlds, these ice covered places in the deep, dark solar system, could be habitats for life.

On Screen: Nasa is planning to launch a spacecraft to Europa in the 2020s. What will it find?

Credits

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Digital Producer
Saad Amer
Written by
Brian Kantor
DEATH DIVE TO SATURN
Writer, Director, and Producer
Terri Randall
Editor
Jedd Ehrmann
Sound Recordists
Tim Kitz
Lauretta Molitor
Camera
David Arabia
Daniel Traub
Vincente Franco
Jason Longo

FOOTAGE AND GRAPHICS

Visuals
Cen­ter for Mar­ine En­vir­on­mental Sci­ences of the Uni­versity of Bre­men
ESA
ESO
NASA/JPL/CalTech
NASA/JPL/Caltech/Space Science Institute
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/University of Idaho
ShutterStock
Graphics
Edward Bell

SFX

Music
­APM

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