Scientists find potential evidence of methanogenesis, a biological process, on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
By Becky Ferreira | MOTHERBOARD
The ocean interior of Saturn’s moon Enceladus may have the „temperatures and chemical energy sources necessary for habitable conditions,“ according to new research published in Science on Thursday.
This major finding is the result of an extremely tight flyby of Enceladus conducted by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which has been in orbit around the ringed gas giant since 2004. The data sourced from this close encounter adds to Enceladus‘ growing reputation as one of the solar system’s leading candidates in the search for alien life, and hospitable worlds beyond Earth.
„We feel pretty fortunate that we got this information about habitability,“ said J. Hunter Waite, the principal investigator of the mass spectrometer (INMS) onboard Cassini and the lead author of the paper, in a phone interview with Motherboard. „It will continue to build an interesting case for going back [to Enceladus].“
On October 28, 2015, Cassini zoomed by Enceladus at an altitude of 30 miles above the surface of this tiny moon, which is only 314 miles in diameter, small enough to fit within the length of the United Kingdom. The orbiter passed through one of the billowing plumes of vapor that frequently erupt from this world’s icy surface, and sampled its chemical contents.