​Saturn's Moon Is The Only Place With All The Ingredients For Life As We Know It

Scientists have forever been fascinated by the possibility of life beyond our planet, having been busy probing the skies and firing out rockets and robots into space to find out more.

Well, apparently our best chance of finding or maybe even supporting life as we know it is on Saturn's moon, Enceladus - which scientists now say is the only known celestial body with all the required ingredients for it.

It's apparently the only world in our solar system (other than Earth, obvs) with all the things we need for life, with recent readings from a Nasa probe revealing a natural satellite pumping organic molecules - a precursor to microbial life - from its liquid subsurface ocean.

Credit: Nasa
Credit: Nasa

Researchers said they were 'blown away' by what they discovered on the icy planet, which is 628 million miles from Earth, and added that the remarkable results could now help searches for extra-terrestrial life.

Before you start picturing E.T. waddling around, the type of life we're talking about would be similar to microbes living in extreme conditions on Earth, like volcanic vents on the ocean floor.

"The findings have great significance for the next generation of exploration," said Dr Christopher Glein, a researcher at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, and study co-author.

"A future spacecraft could fly through the plume of Enceladus, and analyse those complex organic molecules using a high-resolution mass spectrometer to help us determine how they were made.

"We must be cautious, but it is exciting to ponder that this finding indicates that the biological synthesis of organic molecules on Enceladus is possible."

Enceladus is an extremely cold planet, featuring several ice volcanos across its cracked surface. It also regularly ejects plumes of water and ice particles from its ocean through hydrothermal vents.

Scientists have suspected that it could host alien life for a while now, after Nasa's Cassini probe discovered its subsurface ocean in 2015.

Studying readings from one of the plumes collected by Cassini, researchers found complex, carbon-rich organic molecules being ejected from the cracks of Enceladus' icy surface.

Credit: Nasa
Credit: Nasa

These molecules have masses above 200 atomic mass units - which makes them over 10 times heavier than methane - and scientists reckon that chemical reactions between the moon's rocky core and warm water from the subsurface ocean are linked to the complex molecules.

"Complex organic molecules do not necessarily provide a habitable environment, but on the other hand they are a necessary precursor for life,"Dr Frank Postberg from the University of Heidelberg - who led the research - told the Independent.

"Previously it was unknown whether complex organic chemistry happens on Enceladus - and now we know."

Featured Image Credit: Nasa

Jess Hardiman

Jess Hardiman is a journalist who graduated from Manchester University with a BA in Film Studies, English Language and Literature, and has previously worked for Time Out and The Skinny among others.

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