Scientists have proven that organisms on Earth could survive on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons.
For almost a decade, Enceladus, one of Saturn’s satellites, has been of great interest to scientists. They believe in the possibility of life on this small moon of 500 kilometers in diameter, despite its oxygen-poor atmosphere and lack of light. Thanks to the Cassini spacecraft, which remained in orbit around Saturn between 2005 and 2017, researchers now know that the ocean of Enceladus, hidden under a thick layer of ice, contains ammonia, carbon, methane and organic compounds, all of which are essential elements for the development of life.
To test their theory, scientists have therefore developed small habitats in which they reproduced the Enceladus atmosphere. They then placed different types of archaeological in them, microscopic organisms composed of a single cell able to live in difficult environments.
One type of archaea in particular, the “methanothermococcus okinawensis”, has adapted particularly well to the conditions that can be found on Saturn’s satellite. According to Simon Rittmann, the lead author of the study, who spoke to The Atlantic, “in these conditions, life could exist”.
But in practice, the probability of life on Enceladus is still unknown. Scientists do not know if hydrogen is produced in sufficient quantities to be used as a source of energy by archaea. In addition, the methane detected on the satellite could be of non-biological origin.
To know the answer to all these questions, it would be necessary to consider a new exploration of Enceladus, which is not currently part of NASA’s plans. The US agency, however, intends to send a probe on Titan, one of the moons of Jupiter, which also hosts an ocean of ice and geysers similar to those of Enceladus.