Complex organic molecules from the interior of Enceladus

Complex organic molecules in Enceladus' ocean
Image Credit: ESA; F. Postberg et al (2018)

News from Jun 29, 2018

Complex organic molecules originating from Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus have been detected by scientists of the Cassini mission, which was finished last year. This further supports the idea that Enceladus’ subsurface ocean fulfills conditions suitable for life. Hydrothermal activity in the moon’s core causes bubbles of gas to rise through the massive sub-surface ocean bringing up organic material which then forms a thin film beneath the icy shell. Organics and salt water continue to rise through the icy shell when the bubbles burst at the ocean surface and the droplets of dispersed organic material become ice-coated and are ejected into space. Data detected by the Cassini spacecraft were analyzed by a team led by Frank Postberg at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. The detected molecules are unusually large and heavy, each made up by hundreds of atoms.