This moon of Saturn has everything it needs to harbor life


For many years, Enceladus has attracted the attention of scientists for its potential to harbor extraterrestrial life. The new data reinforce the idea that the hidden ocean of this moon of Saturn would be very favorable for the development of life. In the search for extraterrestrial life, scientists are particularly interested in the search for new Earth-sized exoplanets and located in the habitable zone of their star. But our best chance of finding living organisms may be much closer to us, within our own solar system. A liquid ocean beneath Saturn’s ice crust is really attracting the attention of scientists and exobiologists because of the presence of a large water ice crust. on its surface. Enceladus Enceladus, a small moon of Saturn with a diameter of only 500 kilometers, has been the object of very special attention since the passage of the Cassini probe in 2004. If the surface of this moon orbiting the gas giant, gas giant within the outermost ring appears completely frozen. , many observations suggest the presence of liquid water beneath this thick crust of ice. Indeed, many geysers have been observed erupting at the surface, suggesting that this internal liquid ocean would be animated by convection currents due to the presence of significant heat sources. Liquid water and heat-producing geological activity in an intense and continuous way, it is not needed. more to raise scientists’ hopes for the potential presence of living organisms beneath the icy surface of Enceladus. These two criteria that allow the habitability of the small moon have just been supplemented with a third. Through modeling, the researchers discovered that Enceladus’ hidden ocean would be relatively rich in phosphorous, a chemical element essential for the development of life. On Earth, phosphorus, in the form of phosphate, is indeed a basic ingredient for the construction of DNADNA and RNARNA, but it also enters into the composition of many energy molecules, cell membranes, bones and teeth. It is also an essential component for the development of simpler organisms, such as planktonplankton. Liquid water, heat and organic molecules: the ingredients of life come together By passing near Enceladus in 2004, the Cassini probe had been able to sample and analyze the ice. grains and steam emitted by the geysers that burst the frozen surface. The data collected had surprised the scientific community by the extraordinary potential of this moon of Saturn. Indeed, the samples contained all the basic elements necessary for life, but the presence of phosphorus could not be confirmed. The new hypothesis that the liquid ocean does contain it in large quantities, therefore, only strengthens these previous results. To reach this conclusion, the researchers carried out thermodynamic, thermodynamic and kinetic models simulating the geochemical cycle based on the data in phosphorus reported by the Cassini probe. The results, published in the journal PNAS, also show how the mineral minerals that make up the solid core of Enceladus dissolve in contact with alkaline-alkaline water (containing NaHCO3 and/or Na2CO3). According to their model, the presence of phosphorus in Enceladus’ ocean is therefore inevitable and even reaches amounts equivalent to, or even greater than, those observed in seawater at land Clues that support the habitability of the ocean of this moon of Saturn thus continue to accumulate. For scientists, the next step can only be the sending of a new probe intended to validate or not this hypothesis.
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