It's life Jim,...
but not as we know it. :-)
Hydrothermal vents on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, are blasting out organic compounds that could provide the right ingredients to make amino acids, the building blocks of life as we know it. Amino acids, considered an essential for life, are used to form proteins in all known living organisms. They contain carbon, oxygen …
Cassini spacecraft found “low-mass organic compounds in the Enceladean ice grains: nitrogen-bearing, oxygen-bearing, and aromatic.” The ice grains were spewed from the hydrothermal vents on the Moon’s ocean floor.
No doubt some hipsters in a lockup in Hackney are preparing to launch an artisanal gin based on this recipe.
I had this conversation with my mother and a fellow she knows who does interesting biology things. One of the questions that *can* be answered is thermal envelope temperatures - and, given those, Enceladus could concievably have some form of unicellular life on it, but unless it *does* have a hot core, it is rather unlikely that that life form will make it much past virus type structures. The details related in the discussion were long and involved but had to do much with allowing certain molecular structures to form requiring *much* higher temps than would be available without a molten core heating the environment. Of course, it was all hypotheticals and scotch, but it was a fun discussion.
This assumes that said molecular structures would be directly analogous to those used by life on Earth. Certain compounds are stable at the temperature and pressure of liquid water on Earth, but at the temperatures and pressures found at the bottom of an Enceladan ocean, things could be very different. For example, there are complex organisms that thrive around hydrothermal ocean vents on Earth at very different conditions to those we experience. They would die instantly if you transferred them to an air-conditioned office, just as much as I woudl die instantly, if you moved me to a vent at several hundred degrees centigrade at pressures of several tonnes per square millimetre.
Temperatures on Enceladus may be lower than that (but then again, may not), but if that is the case, then some compounds that are not thermally stable at higher temperatures may form the basis for biochemical reactions there.
The problem we have is that since we only know of one planet where life has evolved, we only know what the parameters for survival are here, and even then, some of our assumptions about survivable environments for multicellular life have had to be revised when we discover things like tube worms and tardigrades.
Not in any but trace quantities, if that. The solids are recaptured by Enceladus, if I understand correctly. The gases would likely be captured by Saturn's powerful gravity.
To the extent that they are not so captured, the solar wind would carry the gases further away from the Earth, leaving little or nothing just floating about.
Added to that, the Earth is a VERY great distance from Saturn, even when we're on the same side of the solar system. Brownian-motion based dilution goes with volume, which is proportional to distance^3....
"the Earth is a VERY great distance from Saturn"
Indeed. Here's a handy page to give folks who are unclear on the concept a rough idea of how much vacuum there is between planets ... And please remember, this is only a one dimensional representation!
If the precursor compounds are abundant then that means there is unlikely to be anything in that ocean using them to make amino acids then. No sink for them in other words.
Try finding even loose amino acids on earth, life is so abundant they get snapped up by bacteria or fungi too fast. We humans can make them and labs have them but they are kept frozen until needed and tightly sealed so bacteria are less likely to get in and scoff them.
They only found the building blocks for amino acids, which in turn are the basic building blocks of life. So they found the basic building blocks for the basic building blocks of life"!
I wonder where the basic building blocks for the building blocks of the building blocks came from. Must have been some supernova, I guess.
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