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Oxygen detected in Saturn's moon Dione

London, Sat, 03 Mar 2012 ANI

London, Mar 3 (ANI): A NASA spacecraft circling Saturn has discovered a wispy oxygen atmosphere on the ringed planet's icy moon, Dione

 

The discovery - made using the Cassini spacecraft, which flew by Dione nearly two years ago - supports a theory that suggests all of the moons near Saturn and Jupiter might have oxygen around them.

 

According to co-author Andrew Coates of University College London, Dione has no liquid water and so does not have the conditions to support life. But it is possible that other moons of Jupiter and Saturn do.

 

"Some of the other moons have liquid oceans and so it is worth looking more closely at them for signs of life," Prof Coates told BBC News.

 

It is thought the oxygen is being produced via interactions between Saturn's powerful radiation belts and Dione's water ice. The radiation breaks the water molecules down, liberating oxygen into the moon's exosphere.

 

This most recent discovery will no doubt give a boost to scientists lobbying for sending missions to the gas giant's satellites to search for alien life as, like the presence of liquid water, the presence oxygen could support microscopic lifeforms on other, more habitable moons.

 

The Cassini research has been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. (ANI)

 


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