Share this article:
Complex organic molecules have been discovered for the first time coming from the depths of Saturn's moon Enceladus, a new study reported.
Spacecraft scheduled to launch soon could explore what this new discovery says about the chances of life within icy moons like Enceladus, the study's researchers said.
The sixth largest of Saturn's moons, Enceladus is only about 314 miles (505 kilometers) in diameter. This makes the moon small enough to fit inside the borders of Arizona.
In 2005, NASA's Cassini spacecraft detected plumes of water vapor and icy particles erupting from Enceladus, revealing the existence of a giant ocean hidden under the moon's frozen shell. Because there is life virtually wherever there is water on Earth, these findings suggested that life might also exist on Enceladus.
Previously, scientists had detected only simple organic (carbon-based) compounds, each less than about five carbon atoms in size, in the plumes of Enceladus. Now, researchers have detected complex organic molecules from the moon, including some at least 15 carbon atoms in size.
"This is the first-ever detection of complex organics coming from an extraterrestrial water world," study lead author Frank Postberg, a planetary scientist at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, told Space.com.
Some relief is on the way to the hard-hit Indian state of Kerala, where the death toll from incessant monsoon downpours has exceeded 320.
Residents of western Japan are being put on alert for strengthening Typhoon Soulik to pose serious threats to lives and property Tuesday into Wednesday. Dangers may also spread to South Korea.
In the distant footsteps of Hurricane Hector, Hurricane Lane is forecast to experience a similar evolution and take a similar path just south of the Big Island of Hawaii next week.
Residents across parts of the United Kingdom will want to keep wellies and brollies handy as Ernesto sweeps rain through this weekend.
Wet weather continued to wreak havoc across parts of the northeastern United States this week while a major bridge collapse killed dozens amid severe storms in Italy.
Autumn will feel like a continuation of summer across much of Germany as above-normal temperatures prevail well into October.
After a warmer-than-normal summer for much of the United Kingdom, mild air will continue into the autumn season.
Despite weakening, Rumbia will continue to plague eastern China with flooding rain into early next week.