Where there is water, there is life, much more when it’s warm. The discovery of an ocean underneath Enceladus may just be the shot in the arm that NASA needs to keep looking for more habitable places in the solar system. Maybe we don’t need to explore outside of our own domain after all. The news is welcomed with great anticipation by planet Earth.
Enceladus, the sixth-largest moon of Saturn, discovered to have warm water enough for life. In 2004, Cassini, the biggest spacecraft to date by NASA , arrived in the orbit around Saturn. Since then, it’s sent back oodles of information about the planet and some of its attendant moons. As we all know, life doesn’t exist without the great significance of the components in all living matters; water, involving the elements carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulphur, source of heat, and enough time for life to develop. All this conditions exist on earth but scientists believe it may exist on other objects too. Through the e research, it was now confirmed that Saturn’s moon Enceladus, concealed with its thermal activity on its ocean floor which could make the conditions right for life.
“Enceladus may even represent a very common habitat in the galaxy: icy moons around giant gas planets, located well beyond the ‘habitable zone’ of a star, but still able to maintain liquid water below their icy surface,” said Nicolas Altobelli, the Cassini project scientist from the European Space Agency.Data studied from Cassini’s Cosmic Dust Analyzer for about four years along with lab experiments and computer simulations, researchers found super small dust grains in orbit around Saturn that measure 4-16 nanometers in diameter. (To put that in perspective, 1 million nanometer. The dust particles were rich in silicon, which provides a clue to the researchers and leads them to believe points to the hydrothermal activity existing on the said Saturn’s moon.
Through the presence of small specks of silica, one of the elements abundant in earth’s crust — the oxidized form of the element silicon — are most commonly formed through hydrothermal activity, says the statement. So the researchers who examined Cassini’s data believe the particles swirling around Saturn formed the same way — by hydrothermal vents on the bottom of the ice-covered ocean on Enceladus. Their logic is that beneath the icy crust and ocean that covers Enceladus, there is hydrothermal activity creating water with temperatures of at least 90 degrees Celsius (194 degrees Fahrenheit). This activity dissolves the minerals from the moon’s interior — maybe even from deep in its core. As the minerals rise on the hot water jets, most of them condense out as the water cools, leaving the nano-size particles of silica floating around. Those particles are then embedded in ice beneath the moon’s icy crust and when they’re ejected into space by the at not less than 101 geysers on the moon, the ice erodes and the particles float over to orbit Saturn.
According to Frank Postberg, the Cassini Cosmic Dust Analyzer scientist at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and a co-author on the paper published today in the journal Nature that details the findings, “We methodically searched for alternative explanations for the nano silica grains, but every new result pointed to a single, most likely origin”. “These findings add to the possibility that Enceladus, which contains a subsurface ocean and displays remarkable geologic activity, could contain environments suitable for living organisms,” continues John Grunsfeeld, an astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The locations in our solar system where extreme environments occur in which life might exist may bring us closer to answering the question: are we alone in the universe.”
This findings seem to result seem like a lot of leaps for the researchers pretty more confident If a mission successfully brings samples from Enceladus back to Earth, and no life or prebiotic chemistry is confirmed, scientific/technological yields would still be increased, ensuring such a victorious scenario. This point out that Cassini’s gravity measurements suggest Enceladus’ rocky core is quite porous, which would allow water from the ocean to percolate into the interior and would provide a huge surface area where rock and water could interact.