As the Universe unfolds right before our eyes, we wonder if life could really thrive on other planets, too. When the Cassini-Huygens probe came across the salty quills arising from the interior of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, the scientists’ world stop for a moment. There might be some signs of life up there.
However, the discovery is more complicated than we can imagine. A collection of compounds, similar to what Earth’s ocean floor possesses, has been detected.
Here is what you need to know.
Enceladus Puzzles Scientists’ Work
The discovery of methane inside Enceladus’ plumes is quite shocking. Scientists found high amounts of the compound, making them wonder what else Saturn’s moon is hiding.
They have determined that there could be an unknown process or it could really have a biological origin.
“Searching for such microbes, known as methanogens, at Enceladus’ seafloor would require extremely challenging deep-dive missions that are not in sight for several decades,” explained Regis Ferriere, a biologist at the University of Arizona.
Life on Enceladus: what are the chances?
Enceladus is astonishing. The moon is far from the Sun, shielded by a dense shell of ice.
But, beneath that, a vast global ocean resides. As per scientists’ findings, the ocean could have currents and the necessary, so much-needed, ingredients for life.
What’s more intriguing is that the planetary tidal forces help the ocean, heating it up. So, the ocean could somehow be safe from any freezing events.
Retuning to Cassini’s data, the compounds detected in Enceladus’ plumes, along with methane, are linked to hydrothermal vents similar to Earth’s. To prove that, scientists need to run some tests.
The first step is to examine the dihydrogen abundance and figure out if it could be generated by hydrothermal activity.
More details will be soon available as scientists will come across other observations of Enceladus.