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  • Voltaire Staff

NASA's Cassini finds evidence of life-generating chemicals on Saturn's moon

Saturn. Image Courtesy: NASA

NASA’s Cassini probe has found evidence of a key ingredient for life and a potent source of energy on Saturn's Enceladus, scientists have claimed.

Previous knowledge indicated that the plumes ejected by Enceladus contained organic compounds crucial for life. Celestial plumes, like those observed on Enceladus, are eruptions of material from beneath the surface, offering clues about subsurface conditions and the potential for habitable environments.

Building on this, researchers, using data from NASA's Cassini mission, have now confirmed the presence of hydrogen cyanide, a vital molecule for life, on the icy moon.

Enceladus, Saturn's sixth-largest moon, stands out as a celestial wonder with its unique characteristics and the potential for harbouring extra-terrestrial life. Its icy surface, composed mainly of water ice, makes it one of the brightest objects in the solar system.

The study, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, suggests that the subsurface ocean beneath Enceladus' icy exterior holds a more substantial source of chemical energy than previously known.

The research reveals diverse and powerful chemical energy sources beyond methane production, indicating multiple pathways for the potential formation of life within Enceladus's subsurface ocean, NASA wrote.

Cassini's observations unveiled impressive geysers on Enceladus that expel water vapour and icy particles into space, hinting at the existence of a subsurface ocean.

The findings significantly enhance the prospects for life beyond Earth, positioning Enceladus as a prime target for future exploration and deepening our understanding of the potential habitability of distant celestial bodies.

The Cassini mission, a collaborative venture involving NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Italian Space Agency (ASI), marked a pivotal chapter in planetary exploration, unravelling the mysteries of Saturn and its captivating moons.

Launched in 1997, Cassini reached Saturn in 2004, where it conducted an extensive study of the planet's atmosphere, magnetosphere, and intricate ring system.

Armed with a sophisticated suite of instruments, Cassini made groundbreaking discoveries, including the detection of liquid methane lakes on Titan and the revelation of geysers erupting from Enceladus's subsurface ocean.




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