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Discovery of phosphorus in the oceans of Enceladus

Discovery of phosphorus in the oceans of Enceladus

A team of researchers led by planetary scientist Frank Postberg, from the Free University of Berlin in Germany, selected Phosphorus-containing compounds in the vapor expelled by Saturn’s oceanic moon Enceladus, the body in the solar system with the highest percentage of liquid water by mass.

This discovery is a landmark because it raises the possibility of it Life could exist on a frozen little satellite. Enceladus, the team says, “has all the elements necessary for life.”

It was last year when JWST observed a plume of geysers Enceladus, revealing its massive size and a bit of its composition, however, it was data collected by the Cassini spacecraft that gave such a finding. for him Cosmic dust analyzer It turned out to be capable of one of the most important tasks we could have assigned it: detecting not only phosphorus, but also its abundance.

Apparently, the spacecraft was able to take samples from Saturn’s E ring, most of which consist of ice grains ejected from Enceladus’ oceans via geysers, and run them through a mass spectrometer. The previous analysis showed sodium, potassium, chlorine and carbonate ions. Then the team led by Postberg re-examined the mass and found peaks that matched the mass of the sodium phosphate. According to the authors:

Phosphate wasn’t just present in what Cassini collected. phosphorous concentrations [son] At least 100 times higher in the ocean waters that make up the lunar plume compared to Earth’s oceans. Concentrations vary widely from bead to bead, but we do not know if they reflect location within the periphery or some separation process during escape.

What does this abundance of phosphorus mean?

Image of an article titled Discovery of Phosphorus in the Oceans of Enceladus

Basically, it opens wide speculation Big Moment Phosphates tend to be scarce in calcium-rich waters, experts say, because calcium phosphate has a low solubility, and if Enceladus’ ocean lacked calcium ions, it could be because they were trapped in organic complexes, a sign of stronger life.

let’s think about it, With the exception of a few oddities in the form of bacteria, all life on Earth needs phosphorus. In fact, phosphate ions in fertilizers are so important to agriculture that the discovery of new sources has prevented many from doing so Famines.

In other words, this evidence indicates that life on Enceladus could indeed thrive.

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