at one of Saturn’s moons discovered Oxygen in Dion.

Sunday, March 4th 2012. | Science News

moon'sA NASA spacecraft has discovered a thin oxygen atmosphere on the icy moon of Dione while circling Saturn, according to reports by mission scientists aboard the Cassini spacecraft.

This discovery further supports hypotheses of life sustaining properties on the moons of Saturn, but does little to encourage the possibility of supporting life on Dione itself.

The atmosphere on Dione is 5 trillion times less dense than the air at Earth’s surface, according to scientists, making it uninhabitable. The moon is also void of any liquid water, making it impossible to support life there.

The Cassini spacecraft detected the oxygen in the atmosphere as equivalent to conditions 300 miles above Earth. The element appears in extremely trace portions: scientists have concluded that there is one oxygen ion for every 2,550 cubic feet on the icy moon. This amount is still enough to qualify as an atmosphere, according to scientists.

Cassini team member Robert Tokar of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, who led the new study, provided a statement about the findings.

“We now know that Dione, in addition to Saturn’s rings and the moon Rhea, is a source of oxygen molecules,” Toker said. “This shows that molecular oxygen is actually common in the Saturn system and reinforces that it can come from a process that doesn’t involve life.”

According to a NASA description, Dione is one of Saturn’s smaller moons and is about 698 miles wide. It orbits Saturn once every 2.7 days at a distance of about 234,000 miles — roughly the same as that between Earth and its moon.

Related For at one of Saturn’s moons discovered Oxygen in Dion.