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Saturn’s Moon: An Element for Life – Researchers have found phosphorous on Enceladus

Saturn’s Moon: An Element for Life – Researchers have found phosphorous on Enceladus

Stady One of the most important ingredients for life: Researchers have found phosphorous on Saturn’s moon Enceladus

Geysers spew ice particles from the interior of Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons. Researchers have now established that it is one of the most important building blocks of life.

© NASA/AFP

Now everything together that life needs – at least according to the basic recipe. Researchers have discovered the presence of phosphorus under the frozen ocean on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

A new impetus in the search for extraterrestrial life: Researchers have discovered that the building block of phosphorus, which is central to the formation 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 Wednesday in the journal Nature. The phosphorous it contains is an essential element for the emergence of life.

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“We found abundant phosphorous in ice plume samples released from the subsurface ocean,” said Christopher Glenn, one of the study’s co-authors, of the Southwest Research Institute. This is an “amazing discovery of astrobiology”.

“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 NASA’s Cassini probe and now assessed “leave no doubt that large amounts of this important material are present in the ocean,” said the planetary researcher from Freie Universität (FU) Berlin.

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Saturn’s Cassini probe began exploring the gas giant planet far out in the solar system in 2004 before dying 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.

According to FU Berlin, a NASA probe had already discovered the ocean under the moon’s icy crust a few years ago. Their now-evaluated data confirmed the Berlin planetary researchers’ previous findings from laboratory experiments.

Saturn’s moon Enceladus meets ‘life’s most stringent requirements’

In earlier work, scientists had already discovered that the ocean on Enceladus is a “soda ocean,” meaning rich in dissolved carbonates. It also contains a large amount of complex organic molecules. Evidence of hydrothermal vents has also been found on the ocean floor. Recently, the research team at FU finally detected evidence of phosphorous compounds in the data.

Over the past 25 years, planetary scientists have discovered that celestial bodies with oceans under an icy crust are common in the outer solar system and contain far more water than all of Earth’s oceans combined. These include Jupiter’s moon Europa, the largest of Saturn’s moons Titan, the most distant Pluto.

While planets like Earth, with their surface oceans, must orbit a certain distance from their host star to maintain temperatures suitable for the emergence of life, the discovery of worlds with subterranean oceans expands the number of potential habitable extraterrestrial planets.

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“With this discovery, it is now known that Enceladus’ ocean meets the most stringent requirements for life,” said NASA researcher 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.”

yks France Press agency