Saturn Moon Contains Building Blocks Of Life| Inquirer Technology

One of Saturn’s moons has a key building block of life

03:59 PM June 15, 2023

Scientists detected an essential building block of life on one of Saturn’s moons, Enceladus. They used data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which studied the planet and its orbiting heavenly bodies between 2004 and 2017. The experts found phosphorus, marking the first time that it existed in an ocean besides outside Earth.

We have been trying to figure out if there are other lifeforms outside our solar system for many years. Eventually, we have been finding more signs of other living beings, such as detecting key building blocks of life. The latest discovery on Enceladus could bring us another step closer to discovering extraterrestrial life.

This article will elaborate on the findings related to one of Saturn’s moons. Also, I will explain how the experts concluded the presence of phosphorus in its oceans. More importantly, I will discuss whether it is definitive proof of life in outer space.

What did scientists discover about Saturn’s moon?


The scientists couldn’t fly to Saturn and study Saturn’s moon themselves. Instead, they used data from NASA’s Cassini mission, which detected minerals and organic compounds necessary for life.

According to CNN, previous researchers detected sodium, chlorine, sodium, and carbonate compounds. The latest research adds phosphorus to the list.

Its scientists published their findings in the journal Nature on Wednesday. The paper revealed high concentrations of sodium phosphates inside Enceladus’ ice grains.

These are molecules that chemically bind oxygen, hydrogen, and phosphorus together. Dr. Fabian Klenner, one of the study’s co-authors, explained his team’s findings:


“By determining such high phosphate concentrations readily available in Enceladus’ ocean, we have now satisfied what is generally considered one of the strictest requirements in establishing whether celestial bodies are habitable.”

CNN reported Saturn’s ocean is under an ice shell. Yet, scientists cite signs indicating hydrothermal environments on the seafloor, keeping the ocean warm.


Lead study author Dr. Frank Postberg noted, “The important part for habitability is that we found phosphates that have been dissolved in Enceladus’ ocean and, with that, are readily available for the formation of potential life.”

“In most cases, phosphates (on Earth and elsewhere in the solar system) are locked up in rocky minerals, but on Enceladus, they are dissolved in large quantities (as salts) in the ocean.” Also, Dr. Postberg said he and his team modeled Enceladus’ salty ocean to estimate its phosphate concentrations.

He said they are probably 100 to 1,000 times higher than the Earth’s oceans. He explained bodies of water rich in carbonates or “soda oceans” can dissolve large amounts of phosphates.

Co-author Christopher Glein said, “This key ingredient could be abundant enough to potentially support life in Enceladus’ ocean. This is a stunning discovery for astrobiology.”

Does Saturn’s moon have alien life?

NASA intentionally burned its Cassini spacecraft in Saturn’s atmosphere in 2017. Nevertheless, it changed the way scientists understand ocean worlds in outer space.

As a result, it is our best way to find life beyond Earth. Linda Spilker, NASA planetary scientist, stated, “This latest discovery of phosphorus in Enceladus’ subsurface ocean has set the stage for what the habitability potential might be for the other icy ocean worlds throughout the solar system.”

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“Now that we know so many of the ingredients for life are out there, the question becomes: Is there life beyond Earth, perhaps in our own solar system? I feel that Cassini’s enduring legacy will inspire future missions that might, eventually, answer that very question.”

However, Glein said they had not detected life in outer space despite discovering the building blocks of life. “Having the ingredients is necessary, but they may not be sufficient for an extraterrestrial environment to host life,” he said.

Study co-author Nozair Khawaja stated, “The next step is clear. We need to go back to Enceladus to see if the habitable ocean is actually habitable.” CNN said plans to design a spacecraft to orbit this moon and land on its surface are ongoing.


Scientists discovered phosphorus in the data collected by NASA’s Cassini mission. It is an essential building block of life that raises the probability of extraterrestrial life.

However, the experts noted they had not found creatures outside Earth. Soon, we will have missions to explore Enceladus and other promising heavenly bodies further.

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Time will tell whether we will truly find life on other planets. Meanwhile, you can expand your digital knowledge by reading the latest updates from Inquirer Tech.

TOPICS: interesting topics, NASA, Saturn's moon, Science and technology, Trending
TAGS: interesting topics, NASA, Saturn's moon, Science and technology, Trending

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