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Ready to detect building blocks of life on ocean moons in our Solar System

News from Dec 06, 2022

Saturn’s moon Enceladus and potentially Jupiter’s moon Europa emit a plume of gas and ice grains formed from subsurface ocean water into space. The emitted ice grains can be sampled by so-called impact ionization mass spectrometers on board spacecraft. An international team led by scientists of the Planetary Sciences and Remote Sensing group at Freie Universität Berlin conducted unique laboratory experiments and demonstrated that future mass spectrometers would be capable of detecting building blocks of bacteria, namely DNA, lipids and intermediates of the bacteria’s metabolism. “The investigated biomolecules will be clearly detectable, even if they are present in only a few ice grains at very low concentrations”, explains Dr. Fabian Klenner, one of the lead authors of the study.

The results of this study are particularly timely, with NASA’s Europa Clipper mission scheduled for launch in October 2024 to investigate the habitability of Jupiter’s moon Europa.

For more information see the full press release by Freie Universität Berlin.

Link to the publication 


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