Over the years, Enceladus has attracted the attention of scientists for its potential to harbor extraterrestrial life. The new data reinforces the idea that this moon of Saturn’s hidden ocean could be well-suited for the development of life.
In the search for extraterrestrial life, scientists are particularly interested in the search New Earth-sized exoplanets and located in the habitable zone of their star. But our best chance of finding living things may be inside, very close to us Our solar system.
A liquid ocean beneath the ice crust
For decades, some moons ThursdayThursday And Saturn really attracts the attention of scientists and exobiologists because of an important presence Run upRun up Water ice on their surface. EnceladusEnceladusSmall the moonthe moon of Sat Only 500 kilometers in diameter, it has received much special attention since the Cassini probe passed by in 2004. If the surface of this moon comes around A gas giantA gas giant Completely frozen within the outer ring, many observations suggest the presence of water LiquidLiquid Under this thick layer of ice. Many GeysersGeysers Bursting of the surface was indeed observed, suggesting that this internal liquid would be animated by ocean currents. ConvectionConvection As there are important sources HeatHeat.
Liquid water and A Geological activity that produces heat In an intense and persistent way, it doesn’t take much to fuel scientists’ hopes for the possible existence of life on Enceladus’ icy surface. Both of these criteria allow for the habitability of a small moon Only one third is complete. By ModelingModelingResearchers have found that Enceladus’ hidden ocean is relatively rich PhosphorusPhosphorusA chemical elementchemical element Essential for the development of life. On Earth, phosphorus, in the form of phosphate, is actually a basic element ConstructionConstruction in’DNADNA AndRNARNABut entering into a mixture of many energetic molecules, cell membranescell membranes, bones and teeth. It is an important component in the development of such simple organisms PlanktonPlankton.
Liquid water, heat and organic molecules: the elements of life come together
During a close approach to Enceladus in 2004, the Cassini probe was able to sample and analyze the grains of ice and steam released by geysers erupting the frozen surface. The data collected stunned the scientific community with the extraordinary power of this moon of Saturn. The samples actually contained all the basic elements needed for life, but the presence of phosphorus could not be confirmed. The new hypothesis that the liquid ocean actually has a larger volume only reinforces these earlier results.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers conducted modeling ThermodynamicsThermodynamics and dynamics simulating the geochemical cycle of phosphorus based on the Cassini probe report. The results were published in the journal PNASHow to show like this MineralsMinerals Forms the core SolidSolid Enceladus melts when it comes into contact with water SpicySpicy (Contains NHCO3 and/or na2CO3) according to their model, the presence of phosphorus in Enceladus’ ocean is inevitable and reaches levels equal to or even higher than those found in seawater on Earth.
So the clues that support an oceanic habitat for this moon of Saturn continue to accumulate. For scientists, that can only be the next step Sending a new survey The aim was to test this hypothesis or not.