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An essential building block for life has been discovered in the outer solar system

An essential building block for life has been discovered in the outer solar system

Researchers have discovered that phosphorus, an essential element in the origin of life, occurs in the vicinity of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Geysers spew ice particles from the moon’s icy interior into space through cracks in the surface, according to a study published yesterday in the journal Nature. The phosphorous it contains is an essential element for the emergence of life.

“It is the first time that this essential element has been detected in an ocean beyond Earth,” said study lead author Frank Postberg. Data collected for years by the NASA “Cassini” probe and now assessed, said the planetary researcher from Freie Universit├Ąt (FU) Berlin, “leave no doubt that large quantities of this important material are present in the ocean.”

Habitable in the ocean actually inhabited?

Saturn’s Cassini probe began exploring the gas giant planet far out in the solar system in 2004 before it burned up in the planet’s atmosphere after its mission ended in 2017. The mission is one of the most successful in the history of space travel: it has discovered new rings and moons and revealed Many secrets of the second largest planet in the solar system.

“With this discovery, it is now known that Enceladus’ ocean meets the most stringent requirements for life,” said NASA researcher and co-author Christopher Glenn. The next step is now clear: “We need to go back to Enceladus to find out if the ocean is really habitable and inhabited.”