Saturn’s Moon Enceladus Could Support Life

Posted: Mar 2 2018, 1:37am CST | by , Updated: Mar 2 2018, 3:55am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Saturn’s Moon Enceladus Could Support Life
Credit: NASA

New study says that Enceladus may boast ideal living conditions for single-celled microorganisms known as archaeans

Scientists have found more evidence suggesting that Saturn's moon Enceladus could support some life. Seen from outside, Enceladus appears to be cold and hostile like most other moons in our solar system, but under its interior may exist the conditions necessary for life.

Most scientists agree that we are not alone in the universe and life in one way or other exists somewhere in our solar system. To date, we are aware of just one form of life that lives here on Earth.

Since the discovery that plumes rise from the surface of Saturn's icy moon, Enceladus has been a prime candidate for searching life beyond Earth. Earlier, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has conducted numerous analyses of the vented plumes and showed the traces of gases like carbon dioxide, ammonia, methane and other hydrocarbons that erupt along cracks in Enceladus' south polar region.

In the latest effort, researchers mimicked the conditions of Saturn's icy moon on Earth and found that single-celled microorganisms are known as methanogenic (methane-producing) archaean can thrive those conditions. In other words, Enceladus surface may harbor archaeans that are found in some of the most extreme environments on Earth.

On Earth, this archaean exist in very hot temperatures near deep-sea hydrothermal vents and converts carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas into methane.

“Methanogenic archaea are among the organisms that could potentially thrive under the predicted conditions on Enceladus, considering that both molecular hydrogen (H2) and methane (CH4) have been detected in the plume.” Authors wrote in the study.

Although no physical evidence for possible extraterrestrial life has been found, the results are still encouraging and reinforce the idea that Enceladus is indeed a key target in the search for extra-terrestrial life. Researchers believe that further research is needed to confirm the finding and to exclude the possibility that Enceladus' methane may come from non-biological, geochemical processes.

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