Life on Enceladus increasingly probable

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Life on Enceladus increasingly probable

According to the latest discoveries by scientists and researchers, life on Enceladus, Saturn's icy moon, is increasingly likely. This would be possible thanks also to the presence of another element linked to life and in abundant concentrations: phosphorus.

In April 2017, NASA affirmed the possibility of life on Enceladus. Today it is considered to be one of the best places in the Solar System to look for it. An international research team led by scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Space Science and Engineering Division of the Southwest Research Institute of San Antonio, CSIRO, the University of Berlin and the University of Washington led to this incredible result.

Professor Hao determined that phosphorus would be present in considerable concentrations, in the form of orthophosphate. According to scholars, the seabed of the moon would be rich in soluble rocks containing the compound.

Life on Enceladus increasingly probable

Christopher Glein of the Southwest Research Institute, co-author of the study, said: "What we have learned is that geysers contain almost all of the basic requirements of life as we know it, while the bioessential element phosphorus has yet to be directly identified.

Our team found evidence of its availability in the ocean beneath the moon's icy crust. The underlying geochemistry has an elegant simplicity that makes the presence of dissolved phosphorus inevitable, reaching levels close to or even higher than those of modern terrestrial seawater.

astrobiology this means we can be safer than before that Enceladus' ocean is habitable." Compounds detected during the excursions include organic and inorganic carbon, molecular hydrogen, various nitrogen and oxygen-based and aromatics compounds, ammonia and more, all potentially linked to life forms.

In 2005, thanks to several close flights of the Cassini spacecraft, details of the surface were revealed that answered many of the open questions from the Voyager spacecraft and posed new ones. In particular, the spacecraft discovered a water-rich plume that rises in the south polar region.

This discovery, along with the presence of internal heat leaks and a few impact craters in the south pole, indicates that Enceladus is currently geologically active. Moons in gas giant systems are often trapped in orbital resonances involving forced librations or orbital eccentricities; the proximity to the parent planet can also induce the warming of the satellite generated by the tidal forces.

Enceladus is one of the three celestial bodies in the outer solar system where active eruptions have been observed. Analyzes of the gases emitted suggest that they were generated by liquid water located below the surface. Together with the chemical analyzes of the plume, these discoveries have fueled the hypothesis that Enceladus is an important subject of study in the field of exobiology.