Researchers have just made one of the most striking discoveries that could change our understanding of alien life. It turns out our planet is not the only one that has all the ideal conditions for life. Although it looks as if it’s made of ice, Saturn’s moon Enceladus might have all it takes to host life.
What is hiding beneath the icy crust of Enceladus?
Researchers have always been curious in the icy world beyond Saturn’s rings. At first, the thick layer of ice that surrounds this moon discouraged them. Afterwards, as they continued to look at it, they discovered it hid more than it looked like.
Beneath this layer of ice, there was a whole ocean with some interesting properties. This ocean is relatively warm and hosts some remarkable chemical processes. Researchers suspected they could find more in this ocean, so they performed studies on it even before. Last year, they could prove this environment contained the elements that are mandatory for the existence of life, such as hydrogen.
These compounds might show Enceladus is habitable
Now, researchers decided to continue their study, so they made exciting new discoveries. It turns out this underground ocean of Enceladus is hiding a lot more complex organic compounds. This is a huge step in the quest for alien life, showing the conditions on the Saturn moon are relatively friendly.
The study is still in its infancy, so researchers don’t know too much about Enceladus. It’s a bit earlier to say how these organic molecules have formed, but further research might reveal the answer. These molecules are relatively heavy, weighing around 200 units of atomic mass. Therefore, researchers assumed they might have been left behind when the moon came into being.
However, this is not the only alternative. To encourage the alien life hypothesis, researchers also suggested the compounds might be remains of once-living organisms. However, there’s still a long way until the study is complete. Even if Enceladus could be habitable, there’s no evidence life exists on it.
The study was published in the journal Nature.
Image source: Flickr
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