(ORDO NEWS) — Enceladus, Saturn’s tiny icy moon, is one of the top candidates for being a habitable world within the solar system.
And now scientists believe that we will be able to determine the presence of living forms on it, without even landing on the surface.
Of the 82 moons of Saturn , Enceladus is one of the most mysterious. Its continued geological activity and water-rich surface make this celestial body, according to some astronomers, the most habitable place in the solar system.
And no wonder: under the thick layer of ice that covers the surface of the satellite, there is a warm, salty ocean that emits methane , a gas that is usually a reliable sign of the presence of microbial life on Earth.
However, in the case of Enceladus, the surest way to establish the presence of life on it is to have a space probe land and take samples… Or not?
An international group of American and French astronomers believes that landing a probe (and, as a result, the risk of introducing terrestrial microorganisms) is not necessary: it is enough to fly over the surface of the satellite several times and analyze the composition of the gases emitted by it.
This will make it possible to determine with certainty the presence of life on Enceladus and eliminate the need to develop a probe that can penetrate many meters of ice.
The researchers suggest that, given the data already collected on the composition of the subglacial ocean, the biomass of the inhabitants of Enceladus will be small, and the more dangerous it is to expose the alien ecosystem to the risk of collision with alien microorganisms.
They call the south pole of Enceladus the most promising for data collection, where at least a hundred geysers break through cracks in the ice sheet, the plume from which is visible even from space.
Unfortunately, this way of studying will not allow us to see the Enceladian microbes “live”, although scientists have suggestions of what they look like.
Since almost no sunlight penetrates under a thick layer of ice, it is likely that the inhabitants of Enceladus receive energy from hydrothermal sources , such as “smokers” existing at the bottom of the oceans, whose main population is chemosynthetic bacteria.
Contact us: [email protected]