As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft prepares for its grand finale at Saturn, scientists have uncovered the first evidence of a potential energy source for extraterrestrial microbial life.

The detection of hydrogen inside an ice plume jetting off from Saturn’s ocean-bearing moon Enceladus means that hot water is interacting with rock, creating a potential chemical kitchen for microbial life that doesn’t rely on photosynthesis to survive.

On Earth, these types of microbes flourish around hydrothermal vents on the sea floor. Scientists wonder if the same might be true 790 million miles away on Enceladus, an ice-capped inner moon of Saturn’s that is just 500 miles in diameter.

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