Using data collected by NASA’s Cassini mission, an international team of scientists has discovered phosphorus – an essential chemical element for life – locked inside salt-rich ice grains ejected into space from Enceladus.

The icy crust at the south pole of Enceladus exhibits large fissures that allow water from the subsurface ocean to spray into space as geysers, forming a plume of icy particles. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which captured this imagery in 2009, sampled those particles to reveal the chemicals contained in the ocean. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The small moon is known to possess a subsurface ocean, and water from that ocean erupts through cracks in Enceladus’ icy crust as geysers at its south pole, creating a plume. The plume then feeds Saturn’s E ring (a faint ring outside of the brighter main rings) with icy particles.

During its mission at the gas giant from 2004 to 2017, Cassini flew through the plume and E ring numerous times. Scientists found that Enceladus’ ice grains contain a rich array of minerals and organic compounds – including the ingredients for amino acids – associated with life as we know it. […]

Read more in the original article: NASA


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