The existence of ample amounts of hydrogen in the subsurface ocean of Enceladus indicates that microbes--if any exist there--could use it to obtain energy by mixing with carbon dioxide dissolved in water. This particular chemical reaction, termed methanogenesis, because it manufactures methane as a byproduct, may have been of critical importance in the emergence of life on our planet.
This important measurement was made using Cassini's INMS instrument, which detects gases with the goal of determining their composition. INMS was designed to sample the upper atmosphere of Saturn's large, smoggy moon Titan. However, after Cassini's surprising discovery of a tall plume if icy spray erupting from cracks on Enceladus in 2005, planetary scientists turned its detectors to that small moon.
The Cassini Imaging Team discovered Methone (pronounced me-thoh-nee) on June 1, 2004. This tiny moon orbits between two of Saturn's mid-sized icy moons, Mimas and Enceladus, at a radius of about 194,000 kilometers (120,456 miles) from its planet. Astronomers have suggested two differing theories to explain the presence of Methone and two other small sister moons, Pallene and Anthe. The first theory indicates that the three little moons may have fragmented off of either Mimas or Enceladus. The second theory, on the other hand, suggests that all five moons--the three small moons and the two mid-size ones--may be the sad remnants of a larger menagerie of moons that floated around in that area--which is situated close to Saturn. Methone orbits its gigantic parent planet in 24 hours.