The subglacial ocean on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, may be rich in dissolved phosphorus, which may contribute to the emergence and reproduction of possible microorganisms. This is stated in an article published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
The study was conducted by a team of scientists led by Hao Jihua, a researcher at the China University of Science and Technology.
Enceladus, the second discovered satellite of Saturn, is covered in a thick ice shell. Previously, scientists found that this satellite contains five basic elements necessary for life: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur. However, phosphorus, another of the six basic elements, has not been found.
Due to the lack of phosphorus, an essential component of bones, cell membranes and DNA in humans and animals, Enceladus was once considered uninhabitable by the international scientific community.
However, a recent study refutes previous findings.
“Ocean water on the moon Enceladus has been found to be highly alkaline and contain no oxygen. In composition, it is a bit like soda water that people drink on Earth, ” said Hao Jihua.
It would take more than 100,000 years for phosphorus from the rocks of Enceladus to dissolve into such “carbonated” ocean water, he added.
And the ocean on Enceladus has supposedly been in existence for over 100 million years. Given such a potentially long history, it is reasonable to assume that ocean water is already rich in phosphorus, the scientists explained.
They also noted that although phosphorus has not yet actually been discovered, this study provides a scientific basis for future study of possible life on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.