Space & Astronomy
Astronomers discover methanol on Enceladus
By T.K. Randall
July 5, 2017 · 11 comments
Enceladus appears to be shrouded in methanol. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
An unexpectedly high amount of the organic molecule has been found coming from Saturn's icy moon.
Often regarded as one of the most promising places to look for signs of extraterrestrial life, Enceladus, which is thought to be home to a vast ocean of liquid water, has remained a popular topic of study among scientists ever since NASA's two Voyager spacecraft first began to unravel its secrets.
Now a team of researchers at Cardiff University have discovered an "unexpectedly large" methanol signature in one of Saturn's outermost rings - a signature that they have traced back to Enceladus.
It is believed that the moon's icy plumes may have been 'feeding' the rings over a long period of time.
"Recent discoveries that icy moons in our outer Solar System could host oceans of liquid water and ingredients for life have sparked exciting possibilities for their habitability," said Cardiff University's Emily Drabek-Maunder who presented the findings earlier this week.
"But in this case, our findings suggest that that methanol is being created by further chemical reactions once the plume is ejected into space, making it unlikely it is an indication for life on Enceladus."
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