Enceladus’ ocean right age to support life

earthsky.org | 7/17/2019 | Paul Scott Anderson
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Click For Photo: https://en.es-static.us/upl/2019/07/Enceladus-plumes-Cassini-Nov-24-2018-300x186.jpg

The geysers of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. These huge plumes of water vapor erupt through cracks at Enceladus’ south pole. The Cassini spacecraft analyzed the plumes and found they contain water vapor, ice particles, salts, methane and a variety of complex organic molecules. Scientists believe they originate from an ocean below the moon’s icy crust. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

Could there be life on Saturn’s moon Enceladus? The moon may be small, but it has a global water ocean beneath its icy surface, and scientists have speculated on whether there is anything alive in that deep, dark abyss. The Cassini spacecraft found that it is salty like oceans on Earth, contains abundant organic molecules, and that there is likely hydrothermal activity on the ocean bottom.

Signs - Habitability - Scientists - Ocean - Age

All of those are positive signs for habitability and now scientists have found another one: the ocean appears to be just the right age for optimal life-supporting conditions. The finding was announced by Marc Neveu, a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, on June 24, 2019, during a talk at the 2019 Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon2019). The peer-reviewed results had also been previously published April 1, 2019, in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Enceladus’ ocean is now estimated to be 1 billion years old. This is an ideal age, in terms of life starting and evolving. If the ocean were too young, there wouldn’t have been enough time for different elements needed to mix together, but if it were too old, those chemical processes may have stopped already. The moon would’ve then reached a state of equilibrium, meaning that the reactions to sustain life wouldn’t take place any longer.

Enceladus - Cassini - Spacecraft - Icy - Moon

Enceladus as seen by the Cassini spacecraft. This small, icy moon has a global subsurface ocean that could possibly support life. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/NASA Science.

So how did Neveu and...
(Excerpt) Read more at: earthsky.org
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