Observations from this probe showed that Enceladus has an inland liquid ocean. And an analysis of the Cassini data found that clouds of water ice hovered over its south pole. It comes from the so-called cryovolcanism: the ice is expelled by dozens of geysers, caused by hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean. Some of these particles are so fast that they fly into space and contribute to the existence of one of Saturn’s rings. But the mystery is how they can gain so much speed.
On Earth, microbial ecosystems rich in organisms (so-called archea) capable of producing methane are found in those deep-sea vents.
In a new study, the researchers examined whether the biologically derived methane could explain the enormous energy of the released particles. The authors of the work that was published in early June in the journal Nature Astronomy, argues that the observed escape rates cannot be explained by known natural processes. But on the contrary, they correspond to the fact that the conditions at the bottom of the ocean are favorable for life, which would release methane. At the same time, scientists admit that the source could be a hitherto undescribed geological process related to methane, which has no biological origin, but this could only be confirmed by other missions.
Enceladus is target number one
There is a growing demand among astronomers that a new expedition set out for Enceladus as soon as possible to use modern instruments and find better evidence of what is really happening in the oceans below the icy surface.
Such a mission would not have to be technically difficult. “You wouldn’t even have to land on the surface, it would be enough to fly,” astronomer Frank Postberg told The Guardian. “This is not science fiction. We would just fly there and see if there was life there or not.”
However, an expedition would be ideal, one that could send a remote-controlled submarine into the local ocean, which would explore everything in place. But that is still technologically a long way off; The planned German Enceladus Explorer project, which would like to send a probe to the surface of the moon dubbed Ice Mole, is the closest to this. It would pierce the ice and take water samples.
Three years ago, German and American scientists discovered in Cassini flyby data that there were traces of organic molecules in these eruptions that are more complex than Earth’s amino acids and ten times heavier than methane.
This and other discoveries deepen the interest of scientists in Enceladus; of all known cosmic bodies, it has the most suitable conditions for the origin or existence of life. There are indications that very complex molecules may exist in this environment. Of course, this is not proof that there is life on Enceladus, but rather tells scientists that there is nothing to prevent it from happening on Saturn’s moon.
These are the conditions necessary for life to prosper. There could even be traces of alien microbe remains, but these substances could also be made up of completely natural reactions that have nothing to do with life.