Does Digest one of Saturn’s moons have everything needed to host life?
HE EXCEPTIONAL ENCELADUS. On Wednesday, scientists from the Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) published a paper in Nature outlining their discovery of complex organic molecules on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s 53 moons.
These large, carbon-rich molecules emanate from the ocean beneath the moon’s icy surface, escaping as plumes through warm cracks. This emergence of complex organic molecules from a liquid ocean makes Enceladus the only body besides Earth to boast all the basic requirements for life as we know it, said co-author Christopher Glein in a news release.
HELP FROM THE DEPARTED. For their paper, the scientists relied on data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which plunged into Saturn’s surface in September 2017. During a flyby in 2015, the craft detected hydrogen within the materials emanating from the cracks in Encledaus’s surface. Hydrogen sometimes serves as an energy source for microbes living near hydrothermal vents in the Earth’s oceans, so the researchers suspect that Encledaus’s hydrogen formed due to the moon’s own hydrothermal activity.
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