All the chemical ingredients of life found on Enceladus

(ORDO NEWS) — Phosphorus, a key component of DNA and RNA molecules, has been discovered in the ocean of Saturn’s moon.

It is now known that Enceladus has all the basic elements that make up biomolecules – everything necessary for the emergence of life.

Enceladus is one of the large moons of Saturn. Its surface is covered with a thick layer of ice, from the faults of which geysers are knocked out from time to time, which indicate that there, at a depth, there is a fairly extensive ocean of liquid water.

This makes Enceladus one of the most promising places to look for extraterrestrial life. This possibility is also indicated by the analysis of its water. Both methane and more complex organic molecules are found in it.

Over the years of research, compounds of hydrogen and oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and sulfur have been found in the geysers of Enceladus – almost all the ingredients that make up biomolecules.

And recently, the last element, phosphorus, was added to this list, which serves as a key component of nucleic acids.

This was announced by Yasuhito Sekine, who spoke at a meeting of the American Geophysical Society (AGU), held recently in Chicago.

Sekine and colleagues at the Tokyo Institute of Technology used data from the Cassini probe. Working in the Saturn system, the device collected information about the chemical composition of not only the planet and satellites, but also its sparkling rings.

In this case, scientists were interested in the substances of the E ring, where the substance thrown out by the geysers of Enceladus falls. Among them were found particles exceptionally rich in sodium phosphate.

Judging by their quantity, the subglacial ocean on the satellite can contain this substance in concentrations from one to 20 millimoles, which is orders of magnitude higher than in the Earth‘s oceans, where phosphorus is an element that is extremely scarce and in demand.

The authors of the work suggest that on Enceladus it enters the water from the bottom, when apatites dissolve in it, which are found in abundance in some meteorites, which means that they were also present in the early solar system when the satellite was formed.

The discovery makes Enceladus even more interesting and promising place in terms of finding traces of extraterrestrial life.

Perhaps this will speed up work on such projects, including the ESA mission , so far scheduled to launch only after 2035.


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