According to scientists, Saturn’s sixth-largest moon, Enceladus might be the only place other than Earth where life as we know it could develop. Not long before it vanished into Saturn’s atmosphere, NASA’s spacecraft Cassini was able to collect material from cracks in the icy surface of the moon.
Organic molecules on Enceladus
An international team of researchers has studied the material and found that there are substances made of carbon in the heart of the moon. Complex organic molecules seem to erupt from Enceladus into the space. Such findings amazed the scientists greatly. According to Dr Frank Postberk from the University of Heidelberg, who led the study, this doesn’t necessarily mean that there is life in the moon’s environment, but it does give us a starting point for further research. Since until now scientists did not know “whether complex organic chemistry happens on Enceladus”, this could give them a lot of hope when it comes to future scientific discoveries.
In the opinion of Dr Christopher Glein, a co-author of the study and a space scientist, Saturn’s moon could be the only body other than our planet to meet all fundamental requirements for life the way we know it here, on Earth. The new findings are the result of data collected by NASA’s spacecraft, Cassini, over the years. Initial samples showed that there is a vast ocean of water underneath the icy crust of Enceladus. Investigations that followed showed signs of small organic compounds such as methane gas, as well as hydrogen, which would indicate deep-sea vents.
This study was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday and it might just be the beginning of a long journey of new discoveries. Now scientists look forward to understanding what is the exact nature of such complex organics in the water-world of Enceladus.