An international team of researchers has found crucial evidence that reveals the possibility of the existence of an essential element of life under the icy shell of Enceladus, a moon of Saturn.
According to a recent study, Enceladus could contain an ocean full of phosphorus. It is an essential element for all biological processes on Earth, which has never been detected before on other planets.
The team of researchers led by the Doctor Christophe Glen planetary scientist and geochemist at the Southwest Research Institute, used data collected between 2004 and 2017 by Cassini’s Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA), when explored Saturn, its moons and its rings.
Thanks to this, they studied the ice particles of Enceladus that were heading towards Saturn’s luminous “E ring”.
Initially, the team’s geochemical model indicated that phosphate could be in short supply, but more recent tests have revealed that phosphate concentrations they could be at least 100 times higher than in Earth’s oceans.
Image of Cassini flying through the plumes of Enceladus during their final orbits between April and September 2017. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.
According to NASA, phosphorus is essential to our DNA and is often found in cell membranes and plankton. It also plays a crucial role in the foundations of bones, teeth in humans and animals, and other vital structures that also depend on phosphates.
The presence of this element also indicates that Enceladus may not be the only frozen world that harbors the potential to create life. The phenomenon could be repeated on other moons with frozen oceans, such as Titan, one of Saturn’s satellites, or Europa, which orbits Jupiter.
“This key ingredient could be abundant enough to potentially support life in the ocean of Enceladus; This is an incredible discovery for astrobiology.” said glein.
The findings are incredibly significant. This new discovery could reshape our view of habitable worlds.
Scientists have found traces of phosphorus in columns of water flowing through the icy crust of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
The next step for scientists “is to return to Enceladus to see if the habitable ocean is actually inhabited,” Glein concluded.
These remarkable discoveries have only intensified the desire and drive to explore more, advancing our quest to understand the universe and our place within it. The future of astrobiology is brighter than ever!
The results were published in the scientific journal Nature.
References: Space / Living sciences.
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