Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, has a greater possibility of habitabilitybecause its ocean may contain abundant dissolved phosphorusan important vital element, which had not previously been detected on this planet in the solar system, a new study suggests.
Enceladus, the second moon discovered around Saturn, has a thick layer of ice in a subglacial ocean, forming a column where scientists have found five basic elements for life: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur. Nevertheless, the essential element, phosphorus, has not yet been found.
Due to the absence of phosphorous, which is a indispensable component of the bones, cell membranes and DNA of humans and animalspreviously Enceladus was considered uninhabitable by the international scientific community.
However, a team of international researchers, led by Chinese scientists, has refuted the previous results by stating thatPhosphorus has been discovered in the form of phosphates in the moon’s ocean.
In the study, the researchers created a rock-seawater interaction model to simulate the geochemistry of Enceladus’ rocky ocean floor.
“The planet’s ocean water is very alkaline (very salty) and devoid of oxygen, like the soda water you drink on Earth,” explained lead researcher, Hao Jihuaof the University of Science and Technology of China.
In such a “gaseous” environment, phosphorus would take about 100,000 years to dissolve from the rocks of Enceladus to the ocean.
Hao pointed out that an ocean of liquid water could have existed for more than 100 million years on Enceladus. Given this potentially long history, the planet’s rocks can be expected to release considerable amounts of phosphorus into the ocean.
The study was published in the journal procedures of the United States National Academy of Sciences.
Though phosphorus has not yet been found explicitlyThis study offers a scientific reference for future exploration of possible life on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, the researchers said.
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