Complex organic compounds found on Enceladus

Using data collected by the Cassini probe, scientists have discovered complex organic compounds rich in carbon in the water ejected from the geysers of Saturn’s moon. Researchers stress that the ocean beneath the moon‘s icy crust has conditions suitable for supporting life.

The Cassini probe has looked at Enceladus more than 20 times at close range, though its head ofoSaturn was the primary target. During its last flyby in October 2015, the probe flew over piotoad of matter ejected from the geyseroin the icy moon and have taken probki. Scientists found a whole chemical buffet of carbon dioxide, ammonia and organic compounds such as methane in them. Importantly, we have found roalso wodor.

Teamol led by Frank Postberg and Nozaira Khawaja of the University of Heidelberg in Germany continues to study data collected by the Cassini probe three years ago. It recently identified fragments of large, complex organic molecules in geyser ejected matter.

In preliminary data analysis, small, relatively simple organic molecules were observed, but the complex compounds just discovered, containing hundreds of the atomicow and are extremely rare outside Earth.

Under the icy crust of Enceladus is an ocean thatory covers the entire moon. Data provided by the Cassini probe indicate hydrothermal activity on the ocean floor. It is a murky environment because lod reflects 90 percent of the. sunlight. Despite the low temperatures on the moon’s surface, it is believed that water in the oceans can be warm.

The presence of large complex organic molecules, along with liquid water and hydrothermal activity, strengthens the hypothesis that Enceladus’ ocean may be a life-friendly environment. The findings were published in a journal „Nature”.

Such large molecules may have been formed by complex processesow chemical molecules, including those associated with life, but they could rowno well come from the original material found in someorych meteorites.

– In my opinion, they most likely come from hydrothermal activity, whichora drives the complex chemistry in that moon’s ocean – said Postberg. – At high pressures and warm temperatures, ktory expected there, it is possible that complex organic molecules are formed – added.

Already earlier, krotko after NASA’s revelations about the possibility of a chimney on Enceladausoin hydrothermal vents, the researchers suggested that colonies of microorganismsoin, such as those thatore live near the chimneyoin the planet’s hydrothermal vents, can tolerate the extreme conditions on this moon of Saturn. Microbes living around Earth’s chimneysoIn the hydrothermal, they do not need oxygen, and derive energy by metabolizing carbon dioxide and hydrogen. In doing so, they release methane, whichory have also been detected in piotoads of matter spewed from the Enceladus geyserow.

– Once again, we are being shocked by Enceladus. Previously, we identified only the simplest organic molecules containing a few atomsoin carbon, but even this was very intriguing. We have now discovered organic molecules with masses above 200u. This is more than ten times the methane – said Christopher Glein of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), cooroutor of publications. – With complex organic molecules emanating from the liquid ocean, this moon is the only body outside of Earth with ktorym is known to simultaneously meet all the basic requirements for the existence of life as we know it – added.

– Wateror provides the sourceoThe chemical energy sources that support microbes living in the oceans on Earth near the chimneyoin hydrothermal – said Hunter Waite of SwRI, coorouter of research. – After identifying a potential source ofofood source for microbialow, the next question, whichore should be asked, is – what is the nature of complex organic substances in the ocean? And the complexity of this organic chemistry beyond our expectations – explained.

A paper published on „Nature” will certainly impinge on further Enceladus research. Modern space probes, whichore likely to fly to this moon of Saturn will have better instruments, allowing us to learn more about the origin of these compoundsoin organic. – We must be careful, but it is exciting to consider that it is possible to biologically synthesize organic molecules on Enceladus – emphasized Glein.