The methane produced on one of Saturn’s moons, Enceladus, which hides an ocean under the icy surface is compatible with a production due to life forms. This is indicated by the international study led by the University of Paris Sciences et Lettres (Psl) and published in the journal Nature Astronomy, based on the data obtained by the Cassini probe during its long mission, concluded in 2017. The data analyzed by the French researchers concern the composition of the vapor plumes that emerge from the cracks in the thick ice surface.
Recent research has shown that under the icy blanket that surrounds Enceladus hides a vast ocean of water ‘heated’ by the geological activity of the moon, with hydrothermal vents similar to those present in our oceans and which may have been some of the first cradles of the life on Earth.
Being able to go directly under the ice of Enceladus is impossible for now, but valuable information can be obtained by analyzing the vapors released by the geysers that dot the frozen surface of the moon and pour into the atmosphere gases produced directly by the oceans.
Analyzing the data from Cassini, the spacecraft created jointly by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI), the researchers tried to understand which mechanisms could explain the production of the methane detected in the jets. According to the study, no known geological mechanism would be able to justify such a quantity of methane, which could instead be compatible with a production of biological origin.
This is not proof of the existence of life forms, but indications of ‘compatibility’ with these hypotheses and a further confirmation that the hydrothermal vents of Enceladus are environments of the highest interest for research on extraterrestrial life.
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