Scientists have concluded that Saturn’s moon, Enceladus is fully equipped chemically to produce life or to have harbored it in the past, after analyzing samples of its icy surface.
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have measured the pH of the water on Enceladus and studied its components through the process of spectrometry, as the main body of their study that was recently published in the scientific journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta.
The pH determined just how acid or basic the water was. And it turns out that at a pH of 11 to 12, it was extremely basic when compared to what we are used to here on Earth, making it rather similar to the ammonia that we use in detergents.
As for spectrometry, this is a process that is able to identify substances that we cannot see with the naked eye. Thus, it has been observed that substances common to Earth, such as sodium chloride (NaCl) which is the salt that we use every day on our food, are also found on Enceladus.
Another substance traced in the water samples was sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), which is referred to as soda ash. This is another Earthly substance found in our washing powder. Moreover, what is truly amazing is that we have soda lakes on Earth that are comparable to those on Saturn’s moon.
Thus, the “soda ocean” that is presumed to lay under Enceladus’ ice layers could be similar to places on our planet such as Lake Magadi in Kenya or Mono Lake in California.
The samples were collected from both the icy parts of Enceladus ‘ surface and from the geyser-like plume that has been proven to be caused by the “soda ocean”. The research team completed a chemical model based on these findings, which suggests that Enceladus’ mysterious ocean came to be through the process of serpentinization.
The Earthly explication for this process is that “ultrabasic” or “ultramafic” rocks, which have a high magnesium and iron component but a low silica one, are brought up from the mantle to the bottom of the ocean and interact with the water, thus changing its components.
The same thing is believed to have occurred on Enceladus when water from its ocean came into contact with its rocky core.
Taken all of this into consideration, it is overwhelming to find out that Saturn’s moon, Enceladus is fully equipped to produce life, whether this has happened in the distant past or will happen a few million years from now.
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