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Large organic molecules found on Enceladus


Posted on Wednesday, 27 June, 2018 | Comment icon 9 comments

Enceladus is looking like an increasingly good place to search for life. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Scientists have determined that Saturn's icy moon has 'all of the basic requirements for life as we know it'.
When NASA's Cassini spacecraft sampled plumes of material thrown up in to space during one of its final flyby's of Enceladus, it detected tantalising evidence of complex organic chemistry.

Now following a detailed analysis of these findings, scientists have revealed that Enceladus, like the Earth, has everything that life needs to develop.

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

Enceladus, like Jupiter's moon Europa, is thought to be home to a subterranean ocean. Hydrothermal vents on the floor of this ocean could be the perfect place for primitive alien life forms to thrive.

"Hydrogen provides a source of chemical energy supporting microbes that live in the Earth's oceans near hydrothermal vents," said study co-author Dr Hunter Waite.

"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."

Source: Independent | Comments (9)

Tags: Enceladus

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by pallidin on 27 June, 2018, 20:15
Honestly, this sounds potentially significant.
Comment icon #2 Posted by UFOwatcher on 28 June, 2018, 14:34
"Large organic molecules found" I just wanna see a bug.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Seti42 on 28 June, 2018, 16:03
Remember, "organic" doesn't mean life. Methane is an organic chemical. So is any compound carbon in it, technically. "Organic" means a different thing to a chemist than it does to a Whole Foods shopper.
Comment icon #4 Posted by John Allanson on 28 June, 2018, 23:15
Since the first pictures of the Tiger Stripes along woth the suspition of liquid intrior, I convinced myself they were signs organic material. Brilliant news!
Comment icon #5 Posted by pallidin on 29 June, 2018, 4:29
Very true, and NASA along with other agencies that deal with hardcore astrophysics are apparently attempting to address this issue of organic molecules----  with respect to the potential for the development of life. Where it might lead I don't know, but I do know that I'm grateful that very professional people are addressing this issue.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Noxasa on 29 June, 2018, 5:52
Except scientists don't know what the basic requirements for life are because they've never progressed any organic assembly of compounds to a state of "life."  For all they know these compounds are light years away from life and aren't even close to that of a living biologic structure.  Science should never make claims that put organic chemicals and life as being closely related because the truth is they just don't know yet, and they may never know.  When science can make a living organism from chemicals, then and only then, can they show a quantification of organic matter being close to life.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Merc14 on 29 June, 2018, 16:08
Well, you can't have life as we know it without those organic materials so all this is saying is the building blocks are there.  I don't think anything more was suggested but tyey did say that they could send another probe through those geysers that could detect life.  “Complex organic molecules do not necessarily provide a habitable environment, but on the other hand they are a necessary precursor for life,” Dr Frank Postberg from the University of Heidelberg, who led the research, told The Independent.   “Previously it was unknown whether complex organic chemistry happens on Enceladus – and ... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by paperdyer on 29 June, 2018, 16:59
Well unless we can thaw out the moon, there's little chases of seeing what the organic material can develop into.
Comment icon #9 Posted by bison on 29 June, 2018, 19:05
It's already thawed out, in its interior. Flexing of Enceladus' core by Saturn's gravity causes friction, thus heat.  Beneath an icy crust is a deep ocean of liquid water. Organic material there may interact with the chemistry of the core/ocean boundary to produce life.  The icy plumes that escape through cracks in the ice crust afford us the opportunity to examine the organic material. A mission to Enceladus, intended to detect life, could tell us if the organic material is connected to living things.   


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