Is there life elsewhere in the solar system? There is no answer to this question yet, but there are a few places scientists are looking. Enceladus is firmly in first place.
The satellite image of the week is a beautiful image of Enceladus. This moon revolves around the planet Saturn. The 500-kilometre-wide moon is very cold and completely covered in ice. Enceladus has been photographed regularly by the Cassini spacecraft. In 2017, the Cassini mission ended and the spacecraft burned up in Saturn’s atmosphere. In 2017, visitors to Scientias.nl . chose 40 most beautiful pictures of Cassini, with the image below showing Enceladus as the winner.
Beneath the frozen surface is an ocean 40 miles thick. In 2019, scholars wrote In Science magazine, this subterranean ocean is enriched with hydrogen gas. This could be a source of life. Hydrogen gas enters the ocean thanks to hydrothermal activity on the ocean floor. Thus the researchers showed that the three essential components of life – liquid water, the energy source for metabolism and the correct chemical components – are almost all present. Only phosphorous and sulfur have not yet been found, but it is only a matter of time.
Water columns contain amino acid components
Sprinkle the moon regularly Water columns towering in space. Recently, researchers found new organic compounds in these columns. These compounds that carry nitrogen and oxygen play a major role in the production of amino acids: complex molecules that act as the building blocks of proteins. Without these proteins, life as we know it could not exist on Earth. “We don’t yet know if amino acids are necessary for extraterrestrial life, but finding the molecules that make up amino acids is an important piece of the puzzle,” said researcher Nozir Khawaja.
Not a mission to Enceladus, but to Titan
Scientists hope to one day look under the ice of Enceladus, but unfortunately no missions have been planned yet. This is partly due to the fact that the ice sheet is an average of twenty kilometers thick. In Antarctica, the ice sheet is thinner than five kilometers, but you still can’t dig through it. And then it becomes interesting to send a space probe with a radar instrument to Enceladus to “see” under the ice in this way. Fortunately, other missions to Saturn and its moons are planned. This is how it will be in 2036 Quadrocopter Dragonfly Exploring Titan. The drone will land in the Shangri-La dunes on Titan and then continue to fly to other places. The drone is also collecting samples from the surface. Scientists hope that the Dragonfly will find the building blocks of life and tell us more about the origin of life.
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