Scientists found signs of Life on a Moon of Saturn

Scientists found signs of Life on a Moon of Saturn

New findings of Enceladus strengthened the claims that it is the most suitable place for exploring extraterrestrial life.

The existence of life beyond Earth has always been an extremely popular topic in the scientific community. Continuous efforts are being made since the mid-20th century in this regard but scientists have not enjoyed much of a success. Although we have not seen aliens except for sci-fi movies, researchers have found a lot of promising evidence in different parts of the universe. Another similar development was observed recently as they traced more signs of life from Enceladus, a moon of Saturn which is considered a potential candidate for bearing life. According to Christopher Glein, it is the only other place, to our knowledge, besides Earth which satisfies all the basic requirements for supporting life.

Cassini spacecraft of NASA collected samples of large organic molecules from the cracks of the Enceladus’ surface just before its death in the atmosphere of Saturn. A team of international researchers performed this study and found that carbon-rich substances are formed in this moon as they spewed from the cracks. Dr. Frank Postberg, who led this research, acknowledged that this discovery was nothing less than a surprise for them as he said,

Complex organic molecules do not necessarily provide a habitable environment, but on the other hand, they are a necessary precursor for life. Previously it was unknown whether complex organic chemistry happens on Enceladus – and now we know.

Initially, it was observed that Enceladus has a massive warm ocean beneath its icy crust. This is the source of these plumes that go as high as hundreds of miles into space due to the presence of cracks in the surface of the moon. Then in October 2015, Cassini spacecraft gathered these samples as it was on a close flyby of this heavenly body. A Mass Spectrometer alongside the Cosmic Dust Analyzer was used to examine the composition of these plumes and it was concluded that complex, carbon-rich molecules are present in them. Similarly, Hydrogen was also detected in these samples. Dr. Hunter Waite, a Co-author of the study, mentioned that in the following words:

Hydrogen provides a source of chemical energy supporting microbes that live in the Earth’s oceans near hydrothermal vents. Once you have identified a potential food source for microbes, the next question to ask is ‘what is the nature of the complex organics in the ocean?’ This paper represents the first step in that understanding – complexity in the organic chemistry beyond our expectations.”

All the organic molecules detected prior to these were considered ‘Small’ as the molecular mass of all of them was under 50 Atomic Mass Units (AMU). Contrary to that, these newly discovered molecules have molecular masses in excess of 200 AMU and they are extremely complex with respect to their predecessors as they have large chains and rings of carbon. Postberg explained to the world that this is the first occasion when a large organic molecule is found in space. He also referred to the fact that complex chemical processes are needed to generate such molecules.

The source of these molecules is still unknown and despite all the speculations we will need future missions to figure out the exact information about that. Postberg also talked about that as he mentioned that no follow-up mission of Cassini is planned. He hoped that a decision about alien-hunting missions to Enceladus will be taken in the next 5 years. Glein agreed to him by saying,

A future spacecraft could fly through the plume and analyze those complex organic molecules using a high-resolution mass spectrometer to help us determine how they were made. We must be cautious, but it is exciting to ponder that this finding indicates that the biological synthesis of organic molecules on Enceladus is possible.”

It will still remain a mystery whether aliens exist at Enceladus or not, but one thing that can be said with utmost surety is that it is very much possible. Nozair Khawaja, the lead author of the study who is also a planetary scientist at the University of Heidelberg, referred to that by saying,

We cannot decide whether the origin of this complex material is biotic or not, but there is astrobiological potential.”

2 Replies to “Scientists found signs of Life on a Moon of Saturn”

  1. I don’t want to be a weird guy but I do believe in extraterrestial life and I was just thinking Imagine that aliens other aliens frol another place put them on that moon bcs they thought there was life there so this could change a lot of stuff in our knowledge of space and maybe hostile creature’s or alied I hope that it doesn’t become something hostile bcs I would just love to be able to see the creatures or find out more about “alien’s”

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