The Cassini Spacecraft discovered organic molecules on Saturn’s icy moon after it orbited the planet. Scientists analyzed the data from the international spacecraft and published their findings on 27 June in the journal Nature.
The study presents the latest data retrieved from Cassini. One of the authors of the study, Christopher Glein, is a space scientist specializing in extraterrestrial chemical oceanography at the Southwest Research Institute. He wrote:
“We are, yet again, blown away by Enceladus.”
Glein says why the data about Enceladus is so amazing: they have “found organic molecules with masses above 200 atomic mass units. That’s over ten times heavier than methane.”
But what does that actually mean? He explains that these complex organic molecules that emanate from the moon’s liquid water ocean make Enceladus “the only body besides Earth known to simultaneously satisfy all of the basic requirements for life as we know it.”
Frank Postberg and Nozair Khawaja (University of Heidelberg, Germany) were the ones that identified the molecules that the Cassini spacecraft detected on the surface of Enceladus’ icy shell. Postberg said that “it is the first ever detection of complex organics coming from an extraterrestrial waterworld.”
The European Space Agency (ESA) wrote that the spacecraft helped scientists learn that it Enceladus could harbor life in its oceans:
“This is the most recent in a long series of discoveries made by Cassini that have been painting Enceladus as a potentially habitable waterworld.”
Postberg believes that the molecules were born in the warm temperatures of the moon’s core, and the high pressures made them get to the surface of the water.
The Cassini mission ended in 2017, as a collaboration between the ESA, the US Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI).
Enceladus might show signs that it can harbor life, but humans wouldn’t survive there. The temperatures of the moon reach only -198 degrees C (-324 F), so don’t get ready to pack your bags yet!
Doris’s passion for writing started to take shape in college where she was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper. Even though she ended up working in IT for more than 7 years, she’s now back to what he always enjoyed doing. With a true passion for technology, Doris mostly covers tech-related topics.