There may be life on Enceladus: new organic discoveries support existence



by LORENZO CIOTTI

There may be life on Enceladus: new organic discoveries support existence
© Kevin Gill from Los Angeles, CA, United States Wikimedia Commons

An article just published in Nature Astronomy explains how on Enceledus, Saturn's satellite, there are organic compounds, such as ethane and acetylene, detected in the geysers that characterize the icy surface of the planet.

Enceladus, one of Saturn's many moons, there are other organic species that support the existence of life. The authors of the study anticipated: "Our analyzes of the low-speed INMS data, together with our detailed statistical framework, enabled the discrimination of previously ambiguous species in the plume.

This allowed us to reduce the effects of high-speed model fitting dimension." Scientists' research has demonstrated the presence of several new compounds, including hydrogen cyanide (HCN), acetylene (C2H2), propylene (C3H6) and ethane (C2H6) that can potentially support microbial communities and, therefore, synthesize life forms more complex extraterrestrials.

There may be life on Enceladus

Until the passage of the two Voyager probes in the early 1980s, the characteristics of this celestial body were little known, apart from the identification of water ice on the surface. The probes showed that this satellite has a diameter of only 500 km and reflects almost 100% of sunlight.

Voyager 1 made it possible to discover that Enceladus orbits in the densest region of Saturn's E ring while Voyager 2 revealed that, despite its small size, the satellite has regions that vary from ancient surfaces with many impact craters to recent areas dated around 100 million years old.

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

This discovery, along with the presence of internal heat leaks and a few impact craters at 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 heating of the satellite generated by tidal forces.