New research provides evidence suggesting that life could be supported by Saturn’s icy ocean moon Enceladus.
Enceladus, an icy moon of Saturn that is about 890 million miles from Earth, hides a global ocean beneath its crust of ice. Although Enceladus is less than 1 percent the size of our moon, its hidden ocean contains up to 10 percent of the amount of water that exists on Earth.
Earlier, NASA declared that Enceladus has conditions favorable to supporting life. Now, a recent study explains how Enceladus could sustain an ocean under its icy crust and how this environment could support life. Researchers matched observations with 3D computer models that depicted a wet, rocky, porous core and illustrated the possible ways in which such an ocean could form.
Lead author Gaël Choblet, from the French National Center for Scientific Research, said, “If a new theory published last year is correct, then powerful hydrothermal activity could have been occurring since the formation of the moon, possibly as much as the age of the solar system.”
David A Rothery, professor of Planetary Geosciences at the Open University, U.K., explained, “Chemical reactions are going on even today. If it’s going on today it could have been going on a billion years into the past, and that’s long enough for life to get started—and to have evolved beyond the very most basic stages. It could be quite a complex microbial community down there and we’d love to study it.”