Alien Life? The Right Stuff Was Found in Space

NASA is always up to working on to create conditions on other planets and moon for human survival other than the planet Earth. They send in stuff to space such as Salt, Silica, water and carbon-containing compounds. These ingredients are essential to life.

On Saturn’s small moon which is called Enceladus, NASA is currently working on a dead spacecraft. They have found the most complex heavy organic compounds ever, which contain numerous atoms which are arranged in chains and rings. These heavy organic compounds make life sustainable on moon beyond the earth.

Enceladus | NASA

A scientist from Cornell University named Jonathan Lunine says, “What we know today is telling us that Enceladus is an outstanding target to go look for life, and there may be microbes living in that ocean today”.

In 2005, a Cassini spacecraft went to explore Saturn and found out icy jets venting from Enceladus. These jets contained water which was underneath the moon’s icy shell. Scientists studied these jets and found out about their Salinity, acidity, heat energy and were also able to recognize compounds such as Methane.

Illustration Cassini spacecraft| Wikipedia

However, the scientists are still not sure whether these compounds are an emblem of existence of aliens or they are just unresponsive chemistry, as the author of journal Nature, Frank Postberg of the University of Heidelberg says, “We cannot decide this hundred-million-dollar question, but it certainly shows that something is going on there, that complex organic chemistry is happening and that we can prove it from space, The moon freely delivers its organic inventory at high concentrations to the Cassini spacecraft. That’s just an amazing finding”.

DUST DETECTOR

Saturn | NASA

Last September Cassini jumped into a ringed planet which contains data to be explored. Cassini moved towards the ring and collected some data by colliding with its particles. From 2004 to 2008, Postberg and his team studied the data from the E ring. They collected and examined approximately 10 thousand dust particles over the course of 15 separate intervals. 1% of those 10 thousand dust particles, were acknowledged as complex organic compounds. “It was kind of a needle in a haystack problem,” says Postberg.

FLOATING FILM

Enceladus

The molecules detected are as heavy as 200 atomic mass units. They contain carbon atoms, nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen. This is the first time ever that such weighty organic compounds have been found. Morgan Cable of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory says, “While we have found large molecules outside of Earth before, this is the first time they have been detected emerging from a liquid water ocean…Many large organic molecules are not stable in liquid water for extended periods of time, so one of the next questions to ask is, where are these organic molecules coming from?”. 

Postman and his team try to answer the question in the following words, “Our oceans have a thin film of organic molecules floating on top—think ‘oil slick’ but made up of life and its byproducts—that covers the ocean to a significant extent,” Cable says. “Now it seems that Enceladus has this too. But is it also made by life?”

LYING IN WAIT

Cassini over Enceladus Illustration | NASA

Furthermore, these compounds may not reflect life as Lunine says, “Are they being made by abiotic processing at the bottom of the ocean, where the rock and water meet, or are they the waste products of microbes? That’s the question, with a capital Q,”

The findings tell scientists that the icy shell may have properties that support life but this is a complex matter which is yet to be explored much in detail, As Lunine says, “We should try to go back to Enceladus as soon as we can, it’s waiting for us. It’s not going anywhere, and think of all that microbial poo that could be spewed out into space and analyzed today.”

NASA is planning to pause working on Enceladus and send a spacecraft to Europa which orbits Jupiter. Let’s see what they will find next. To find out more, stay tuned!

In the meantime, if you want a quick summary here is a great article by the Verge:

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