Jul 9, 2007
WASHINGTON, July 9 (UPI) -- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has discovered evidence of hydrocarbons on Saturn's moon Hyperion, scientists said Monday.
NASA said the Cassini spacecraft revealed, for the first time, surface details of Saturn's moon Hyperion that include cup-like craters filled with hydrocarbons. That discovery suggests a more widespread presence in our solar system of basic chemicals necessary for life, NASA scientists said.
Cassini also identified water and carbon dioxide ices on the moon, as well as dark material that fits the spectral profile of hydrocarbons.
"Of special interest is the presence on Hyperion of hydrocarbons -- combinations of carbon and hydrogen atoms that are found in comets, meteorites, and the dust in our galaxy," said Dale Cruikshank, a planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center.
"These molecules, when embedded in ice and exposed to ultraviolet light, form new molecules of biological significance," he said. "This doesn't mean that we have found life, but it is a further indication that the basic chemistry needed for life is widespread in the universe."
A paper in the current issue of the journal Nature reports findings of Cassini's September 2005 flyby of Hyperion.