Oxygen Atmosphere Discovered Around Saturns Moon

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Oxygen has been discovered in the atmosphere surrounding Saturn's moon Dione. Scientists are discussing whether this could lead to the discovery of life outside Earth. Space.com says ...

"A NASA spacecraft circling Saturn has discovered a wispy oxygen atmosphere on the ringed planet's icy moon Dione ... [the] atmosphere is 5 trillion times less dense than the air at Earth's surface, scientists say."

NASA's Cassini spacecraft made the discovery — and scientists say the layer of oxygen is so thin, they call it an exosphere rather than an atmosphere. The BBC's science correspondent reports...

"Researchers say that their finding increases the likelihood of finding the ingredients for life on one of the moons orbiting gas giants."

The finding around the small moon has researchers discussing the possibility of the same conditions around other moons. Those surrounding Saturn and Jupiter are believed to have liquid lakes below icy surfaces. Science 2.0 has more details on the significance of the discovery.

"Perhaps even more exciting is the possibility that on a moon with sub-surface water, such as Jupiter's moon Europa, molecular oxygen could combine with carbon in subsurface lakes to form the building blocks of life."

And writer for Discovery News believes the findings will assist scientists in sending other spacecraft out to collect more data.

"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."

The Cassini spacecraft was launched in 1997 and has been orbiting Saturn since its arrival in 2004. Scientists say Dione's atmosphere is similar in oxygen levels to about 300 miles above Earth.

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