Paris. The description of methane in the water vapor springs emitted by Saturn’s moon Enceladus is largely microbial. This is the conclusion reached by a team of researchers from France and the United States based on a comprehensive statistical analysis. At the bottom of the ocean hidden under a dense layer of ice, like the earth, there will be warm springs with a life-friendly environment. Scientists in the journal Nature Astronomy suggest that if there is no life form, there must be a previously unknown source of methane.
The US space agency Cassini orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017 and explored its moons. Enceladus is the sixth largest moon on the planet with a diameter of 500 km. In early 2005, Cassini’s observations showed that the south pole of Saturn’s Moon was geologically active, where ice particles and steam springs would be shooting thousands of kilometers away in space.
Are there hot springs of water in Enceladus?
Cassini has flown many times through these springs. The presence of molecular hydrogen and methane in the vapor also changed. For a long time, planetary researchers suspected that there were hot springs of water at the bottom of the Enceladus Ocean – just like on Earth – where they could produce molecular hydrogen and methane through chemical processes.
Near such “black smokers” on the ocean floor, there are rich ecosystems in the oceans of the land that are powered by chemical energy that is available instead of sunlight. These hot springs also played an important role in the creation of life on earth.
Life-friendly conditions are possible at Enceladus
This begs the question of whether it is not so similar in Enceladus. To answer this question, Antonin Afolder and his colleagues at the University PSL in Paris analyzed data collected by Cassini on all known knowledge of geophysics, geochemistry and biological processes in a complex statistical practice. How non-biological changes in the surface of rocks can only explain the observed amount of methane is how the researchers summarize the results of this analysis.
New information from NASA: More water on the moon than previously thought
U.S.A. researchers find water on moonlight © Reuters
From the data, however, it can be deduced that there must be water hot springs with life-friendly conditions at the sea floor of Enceladus. The question is whether life was really created there. Assuming that the appearance of life on Earth is not an accidental event, one must be convinced of this question – then the serious microbes may be through Enceladus methane. Researchers estimate that life-friendly conditions at Enceladus last for billions of years, “enough time for life to form”.
Methane Unknown processes?
However, if conditions are right then life almost inevitably occurs, but if it turns out to be a very unlikely and rare event, Cassini’s measurements indicate life-friendly conditions at the bottom of the ocean – but there is no life there and no biological processes. In this case, according to the researchers, there must have been unknown processes before methane was formed, which are still waiting to be discovered.