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Space & Astronomy

Enceladus' ocean is similar to lakes on Earth

By T.K. Randall
May 11, 2015 · Comment icon 8 comments

Could microbial life exist in the oceans of Enceladus ? Image Credit: NASA/JPL
The subsurface ocean on Saturn's moon is very similar to life-bearing salt lakes on our own planet.
The recent discovery of a liquid ocean beneath the icy crust of Enceladus has opened up the door to the possibility of finding extraterrestrial microbial life there and now scientists believe that this freezing moon may even be home to water that is not dissimilar to that found in some of the lakes on Earth.

Enceladus is a small but geologically active world with huge geysers blasting through the ice that have enabled experts to analyze the salt content and pH level of the water underneath.

The latest data suggests that this subsurface ocean contains high concentrations of sodium chloride which makes it remarkably similar to some of the extreme 'soda lakes' on Earth.
One such place, Mono Lake in California, is known to contain a number of extremophile organisms.

The find has elevated Enceladus to the single most likely place to find evidence of extraterrestrial life within our own solar system and could make it a prime target for future space missions.

Perhaps NASA's recent prediction of finding alien life within 20 years could come true after all.

Source: Reuters | Comments (8)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Sundew 9 years ago
It's a pity that the ocean may be so saline, in some of Earth's saline environments only a few species of bacteria exist, though in vast numbers. But who knows what may await, it's very cool to think we may yet find alien life?
Comment icon #2 Posted by theotherguy 9 years ago
Proto-cell, single cell prokaryote, eukaryote... of course, that's assuming it's DNA based, and that DNA (or RNA, I guess) is based around the same nucleotides we know and love. While GFAJ-1 turned out to be a bust, is it actually impossible? Next stop, Enceladus!
Comment icon #3 Posted by BeastieRunner 9 years ago
Proto-cell, single cell prokaryote, eukaryote... of course, that's assuming it's DNA based, and that DNA (or RNA, I guess) is based around the same nucleotides we know and love. While GFAJ-1 turned out to be a bust, is it actually impossible? Next stop, Enceladus! There's also Europa!
Comment icon #4 Posted by DieChecker 9 years ago
My opinion is that if we do NOT find life on the various icy moons/asteroids, then we plant our own Earth based life there, in the form of extremeophile organisms. In the off chance we kill ourselves off, then at least life will still be out there in other places.
Comment icon #5 Posted by kartikg 9 years ago
There might be life there, is a bait to keep general public interested and to justify the spending. I totally support space missions and discovering life will be a big big bonus but in general majority of people might not do so. I think the scientists do know well that finding life there is almost null...
Comment icon #6 Posted by keithisco 9 years ago
I hope the geysers on Enceladus are the result of thermal stresses and not simple mechanical stresses. Does anybody know if these geysers have a thermal signature and what temperature we might be looking at?
Comment icon #7 Posted by Zalmoxis 9 years ago
All I can think when I see that photo is "massive snow-cone".
Comment icon #8 Posted by TripGun 9 years ago
All of these worlds are yours except Europa attempt no landing there.


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