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Saturn’s Icy Moon Enceladus Might Be Ideal For Hosting Life
Scientists have always believed that life was meant to exist beyond Earth, and have been working for years to hunt for life signs or biosignatures in the universe. When searching for places in our solar system that can harness life, some potential targets are moons instead of planets.
Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s Icy moon Enceladus are believed to host liquid water oceans under a thick layer of ice which could host life. According to new evidence, Saturn’s moon might support habitability. NASA is also working on developing missions that can be launched to take a closer look at these moons to hunt for life beyond Earth.
Cassini Probe Data Helped Astronomers
The research, published in the journal PNAS, suggests there is phosphorus dissolved in Enceladus’s ocean, which can be an important ingredient for hosting life. It is seen in cell membranes and within human bodies. The researchers used Cassini probe data to develop a model of the ocean and how minerals would dissolve in the water body.
“The quest for extraterrestrial habitability in the solar system has shifted focus, as we now look for the building blocks for life, including organic molecules, ammonia, sulfur-bearing compounds as well as the chemical energy needed to support life,” said researcher Christopher Glein of the Southwest Research Institute. “Phosphorus presents an interesting case because previous work suggested that it might be scarce in the ocean of Enceladus, which would dim the prospects for life.”
Need For Another Saturn Mission?
With new findings hinting the presence of phosphorus could be useful, the researcher wants space agencies to visit the moon and observe it again. “We need to get back to Enceladus to see if a habitable ocean is actually inhabited,” Glein said.
The Ocean Worlds Life Surveyor (OWLS) project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) can be the best tool to do it. The project involves several scientific instruments that can analyze liquid samples that are ideal to study ocean worlds like Saturn’s moon.
To analyze that water without even drilling the thick icy layer, scientists can make a spacecraft fly through the plumes of water that erupt from Enceladus’ surface.
Another Interesting Saturn Discovery
Recently, a team of researchers at MIT suggested that the rings of Saturn might be hiding the remains of a massive moon. They also suspect it is the cause of the planet’s unusual tilt.
In a recent paper, the team suggested there could have been a Saturn’s moon called Chrysalis for several billion years, a theory that could explain why the planet spins at a 26.7-degree angle.