Scientists say that life as we know it likely developed on Saturn's moon Enceladus. To find out whether it did, we need to send a spacecraft into orbit around it.
Our solar system is a vast place. And although we only know of one planet harboring life, there could be more places in the solar system where life as we know it has come into existence. One of those places is Enceladus. Surrounded by a vast ocean beneath a gigantic Ice sheet, this Saturnian moon is one of the most likely places where life could have come into existence. To find out, we need to go over there. The journey is long but worth the while. The Saturnian moon is located approximately 800 million miles from our planet. Encealdus orbit its host planet ever 33 Earth-hours.
Scientists from the University of Arizona are eager to learn more about Enceladus, saying that we can find out whether this moon is home to aliens without even landing there. If there is life on Enceladus, then this life will be in the form of microorganisms. To solve the mystery of life on Enceladus, scientists propose sending a spacecraft into orbit around the moon and equipping it with the right tools that would allow it to “sniff out” life.
Exploring the outer regions of the solar system is expensive, and its difficult. So far, only a few spaceacrft have made it past the gas giants. In 1980, Encealdus was investigated by NASA’s Voyager 1 spacaecft, and it portrayed Enceladus as nothing more than a cosmic snowball. Then, in 2005 and 2017, The Casini mission changed everything we knew about Enceladus. Cassini investigated the Satrunian system and discovered that a beneth the massive ice sheet, there was a vast subterranean ocean. This liquid ocean was salty similar to Earth’s ocean, and plumes of methane are expelled from it.
Life on Enceladus?
Methane, along with other organic molecules that make up the building blocks of life, were detected when Cassini flew through gigantic columns of water gushing from Enceladus’s surface. As the small moon orbits the ringed gas giant, Saturn’s immense gravitational field squeezes and pulls on it, heating its interior by friction. As a result, spectacular plumes of water shoot from the cracks and crevices of the icy surface into space. These plumes are key. Scientists from the University of Arizona say that calculated that if life could have arisen on Enceladus, there is a high probability that its presence explains why the moon is spewing methane.
But scientists say that if we want to know for sure, we need to go back to Eneladus and look. Intead of sending a robot to the surface, making it dig through the massive ice sheet, and then plunge into the ocean to search for life, scientists could just send a spacecraft to Enceladus and use it to sample the plumes that are expelled into space.
“Our research shows that if a biosphere is present in Enceladus’ ocean, signs of its existence could be picked up in plume material without the need to land or drill,” explained Antonin Affholder, a postdoctoral research associate at UArizona.