Rhea’s Secret: For the First Time, Oxygen Found on Another World

There is an amazing reported discovery of oxygen for the first time. The Cassini probe found traces of oxygen on Saturn’s moon, Rhea.

While oxygen has been detected indirectly on other planet, this is the first direct measurement of O2.

NASA reported that:

The oxygen appears to arise when Saturn’s magnetic field rotates over Rhea. Energetic particles trapped in the planet’s magnetic field pepper the moon’s water-ice surface. They cause chemical reactions that decompose the surface and release oxygen. The source of the carbon dioxide is less certain.

Oxygen at Rhea’s surface is estimated to be about 5 trillion times less dense than what we have at Earth. But the new results show that surface decomposition could contribute abundant molecules of oxygen, leading to surface densities roughly 100 times greater than the exospheres of either Earth’s moon or Mercury. The formation of oxygen and carbon dioxide could possibly drive complex chemistry on the surfaces of many icy bodies in the universe.

I would not plan for visit anytime soon or at least bring a good sweater. The warmest areas reach -174°C (-281°F) and its shaded areas are a bit more chilly at -220 degrees°C (-364°F).

Jonathan Turley

40 thoughts on “Rhea’s Secret: For the First Time, Oxygen Found on Another World”

  1. Here’s an excerpt from Slate.com

    In fact, says Harvard microbiologist Alex Bradley, the NASA scientists unknowingly demonstrated the flaws in their own experiment. They immersed the DNA in water as they analyzed it, he points out. Arsenic compounds fall apart quickly in water, so if it really was in the microbe’s genes, it should have broken into fragments, Bradley wrote Sunday in a guest post on the blog We, Beasties. But the DNA remained in large chunks—presumably because it was made of durable phosphate. Bradley got his Ph.D. under MIT professor Roger Summons, a professor at MIT who co-authored the 2007 weird-life report. Summons backs his former student’s critique.

    But how could the bacteria be using phosphate when they weren’t getting any in the lab? That was the point of the experiment, after all. It turns out the NASA scientists were feeding the bacteria salts which they freely admit were contaminated with a tiny amount of phosphate. It’s possible, the critics argue, that the bacteria eked out a living on that scarce supply. As Bradley notes, the Sargasso Sea supports plenty of microbes while containing 300 times less phosphate than was present in the lab cultures.

  2. Here’s a detailed review of the new paper from NASA claiming to have isolated a bacterium that substitutes arsenic for phosphorus on its macromolecules and metabolites. (Wolfe-Simon et al. 2010, A Bacterium That Can Grow by Using Arsenic Instead of Phosphorus.) NASA’s shameful analysis of the alleged bacteria in the Mars meteorite made me very suspicious of their microbiology, an attitude that’s only strengthened by my reading of this paper. Basically, it doesn’t present ANY convincing evidence that arsenic has been incorporated into DNA (or any other biological molecule).


  3. Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy! (Buddha Is Jumping Up And Down)

    Like a fool who continues to believe everything of government scientist. Now I’ll admit that I too was very excited. I posted links to the story as well with “This Sounds Big”, but so does the Howling Monkeys of Costa Rica. Just before dawn the Howlers begin their chorus. If you haven’t heard it before you might think King Kong himself was there.

    It seems that in their flawed zeal to get some press coverage, NASA again has egg of their faces, reminiscent of the Mars fossil microbe fiasco. It’s more “science by press release” gone wild. Slate.com has a scathing review of the fire that is raging in the microbiology camp over this press release:

    “It would be really cool if such a bug existed,” said San Diego State University’s Forest Rohwer, a microbiologist who looks for new species of bacteria and viruses in coral reefs. But, he added, “none of the arguments are very convincing on their own.” That was about as positive as the critics could get. “This paper should not have been published,” said Shelley Copley of the University of Colorado…

    Of course if that was any of us saying the same thing about climate science, somebody would immediately label us “anti-science deniers”. Lets see if somebody comes up with a label for these people asking skeptical questions. Maybe “anti NASA space bug deniers”?


  4. “The news has leaked now, and while the discovery is not extraterrestrial life, NASA has indeed uncovered an entirely new life form on our planet that ‘doesn’t share the biological building blocks of anything currently living’ on Earth, Gizmodo reports.

    ‘Discovered in the poisonous Mono Lake, California, this bacteria is made of arsenic, something that was thought to be completely impossible. While she and other scientists theorized that this could be possible, this is the first discovery. The implications of this discovery are enormous to our understanding of life itself and the possibility of finding beings in other planets that don’t have to be like planet Earth.’

    One of the scientists set to speak at the conference today, Felisa Wolfe-Simon, had written a paper ‘Did Nature also choose arsenic?’ earlier this year wondering if that element could also be a foundation for life:

    ‘We hypothesize that ancient biochemical systems, analogous to but distinct from those known today, could have utilized arsenate in the equivalent biological role as phosphate.’

    Organisms utilizing such ‘weird life’ biochemical pathways may have supported a ‘shadow biosphere’ at the time of the origin and early evolution of life on Earth or on other planets.

    Such organisms may even persist on Earth today, undetected, in unusual niches.”

    Read the rest at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/02/nasa-new-life-arsenic-bacteria_n_791094.html and be sure to turn in to NASA’s press conference for more details. This is truly exciting news.

  5. “Buddha Is Jumping Up And Down” –

    Thanks for the news. Very exciting, I’ll admit — and not a whole heck of a lot excites me anymore…

    (I have a 12+ hour day tomorrow, but will surely hear about it what transpires…)

  6. Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy! (Buddha Is Jumping Up And Down)

    Watch the skies, er, news outlets tomorrow!

    “NASA Sets News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery; Science Journal Has Embargoed Details Until 2 p.m. EST On Dec. 2 WASHINGTON — NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.

    The news conference will be held at the NASA Headquarters auditorium at 300 E St. SW, in Washington. It will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency’s website at http://www.nasa.gov.

    Participants are:
    – Mary Voytek, director, Astrobiology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington
    – Felisa Wolfe-Simon, NASA astrobiology research fellow, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.
    – Pamela Conrad, astrobiologist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
    – Steven Benner, distinguished fellow, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, Fla.
    – James Elser, professor, Arizona State University, Tempe”

  7. carolyn Munro,

    I’ve been watching the science fiction show “Haven” which is filmed in the absolutely stunning and beautiful Chester, Nova Scotia. Thinking of moving there has not been an idyll thought.

  8. Go to wikileaks.org to view the documents that have been released thus far.

    What’s going on domestically smacks of treason, in my book…

    If there’s another war, it won’t be because of Wikileaks.

  9. Buddha and Blouise,

    I JUST SAW A COPY OF WIkileaks tonite. If this doesn’t start an all right fight across the world, I don’t know will.

    Talk about our countries being parinoid before this came out. Now we will be looking over our shoulders with every step. WW3 coming, you bet.

    This guy needs to charged with treason and hung out to dry but, well, lets me say not by his toes, but by…….

  10. Buddha

    beleive me , Canada’s province , Nova Scotia , has a lot warmer winters than Moosejaw or even Toronto. Last winter very mild and hardly any snow.

    This year it is supposed to be a lot colder. But it is still fairly mild comparing to lovely Moosejaw


  11. Anon nurse: “… There are some wicked, sadistic things going on in this county of ours… From my perch in the cage, I don’t recognize it anymore.”


    I agree.

  12. Buddha and Blouise,

    As you rightly say, Buddha (and it’s something on which the three of us agree):

    “The Patriot Act needs to be repealed and the DHS and TSA dismantled.”

    How do we get it done, is the question…

    I’m looking forward to the next release of documents by Wikileaks — I keep hoping that something will leak or, rather, pour out…

    There are some wicked, sadistic things going on in this county of ours… From my perch in the cage, I don’t recognize it anymore.

  13. anon nurse,

    Very scary stuff and Buddha is dead on in wanting the Pat Act repealed and the agencies dismantled.

  14. anon nurse,

    I’m troubled by that story too. When did the DHS appoint itself the corporate copyright police? That is so unrelated to their alleged function, it’s mind blowing.

    The Patriot Act needs to be repealed and the DHS and TSA dismantled. They are unconstitutional abusive organizations that seemingly work for corporate profit over actual national security.

  15. Following up on the “off topic” comments of last night.. I’ve also heard that this may relate to the upcoming transmissions promised by Wikileaks, which is said to use “torrents” in document dispersal.

    U.S. Shuts Down Web Sites in Piracy Crackdown
    By BEN SISARIO Published: November 26, 2010

    begin excerpt: (link to nytimes.com article follows)

    The new seizures also come as a new bill, the Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act, is making its way through Congress. The bill, which was approved by a Senate committee last week, would allow the government to shut down sites that are “dedicated to infringing activities.”

    Critics have said the law is too broad, and could affect sites that have nothing to do with file-sharing; the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an online civil liberties group, has called it “an Internet censorship bill.” Waleed A. GadElKareem, who operated Torrent Finder from Egypt, said his site was shut down on Thursday without any notice.

    “My Web site does not even host any torrents or direct-link to them,” Mr. GadElKareem wrote in an e-mail, adding that he only links to other sites. “I am sure something is wrong!”
    He added that his server was up and running at a different address. end excerpt


  16. Dredd,

    You are correct. I did indeed mean Saturn is 8 to 11 AU from Earth. Talking about gas giants occasionally can cause brain farts. That’s my story. I’m sticking to it.

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