New studies by a group of biologists suggest that life may be very likely to exist on Enceladus and that we may already have proof of this. There is currently no evidence of life on Enceladus but its complex chemistry and subsurface oceans make Enceladus a great candidate for life. New research using computer modeling and data from Cassini has found that Enceladus may harbor phosphorus, the building block for life as we know it. Now, researchers who are modeling the environment inside that vast subsurface ocean are saying not only that one key component for life is out there in the moon of Saturn, Enceladus, it is probably at just the right concentration to support water-based, Earth-like life. The hunt for alien life just got more exciting, as a group of scientists, including Southwest Research Institutes Dr. Christopher Glein, found new evidence of a critical building block for life within a subsurface ocean of the moon Enceladus.
What is the temperature on Enceladus?
The temperature on Enceladus is about minus 330 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 201 degrees Celsius) due to its high reflectivity and distance from the sun.
The new research, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, takes the investigation into the potential habitability of Enceladus even further by comparing deep-sea plumes found on Earth, where microbes flourish, with those found on the icy moon, and suggests that it could harbor similar microbes as the planet. An unknown process producing methane is probably working inside a hidden ocean under Enceladus, the Saturnian moon's icy shell, suggests new research published in Nature Astronomy by scientists from the University of Arizona and the Universite des Sciences et Lettres. The methane billowing out from Enceladus the Enceladus could be a sign of life that is bubbling up beneath the moon's subsurface ocean, the new study reports.
Is there an ocean on Enceladus?
Saturn's moon Enceladus has a global ocean of liquid water beneath its icy surface. In 2005, NASA's Cassini spacecraft discovered water vapor plumes spewing from the little moon's south polar surface. Cassini also showed that the subsurface ocean on Enceladus might be able to support some forms of life.
One of the most profound discoveries of the last quarter century of planetary science is that ocean-bearing worlds under the icy layer on their surfaces are a regular feature of our Solar System. One of the most groundbreaking moments in science was finding that cosmic bodies with oceans under their surface layers--icy moons and bodies such as Jupiter, Europa, and Saturns Titan, and even farther-flung bodies such as Pluto--are, in fact, commonplace in humanity's solar system.
The Cassini mission discovered and analyzed samples from Saturn's moons under-girded by liquid water as water grains and water vapor burst outwards from fissures in the moon's icy surface. This first close flyby revealed the moon's subsurface ocean on Saturn's moon Enceladus, making it one of the Solar System's most potentially habitable places. The data that led to new exploration came from NASA's storied 2008 mission, in which the agency's fabled Cassini probe plunged into icy water-vapor, gas, and organic jets spraying out from the southern pole of Enceladus.
At a conference in Berkeley, scientists laid out the data the NASA Cassini probe collected about the icy moon Enceladus, the moon tipped over by Saturn--they discussed analyses of its geysers, measurements of the thick shell of ice, ideas about what its ocean chemistry could look like, and much more. Scientists found evidence for an interior ocean at Enceladus from measurements of its gravity, which are based on the Doppler effect, and a measure of how much the moon wobbles ever so slightly when it is orbiting Saturn.
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