A new computer model from Enceladus shows that the nutrient-rich sea of the moon can be more than a billion years old. That increases the chances of life.
Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, is one of the major candidates for the presence of life elsewhere in the solar system.
The sea that is hidden under the ice sheet meets all the conditions: water, energy and the chemical building blocks from the core of the moon are available.
And after a new discovery, Enceladus has become even more interesting.
It appears that the sea may be a few billion years old, according to scientists an important factor in the emergence of life.
The moon looks like a bald ice ball, but when the Cassini spacecraft came along during his missions between 2014 and 2017, it became apparent that a liquid sea is under the ice.
CASSINI EXPOSES BOTTLING INNER OF ENCELADUS
101 geysers at the south pole.
Hydrothermal springs on the seabed.
The sea covers the entire moon.
The water is warmer than expected.
Hydrogen molecules in the geysers indicate a source of chemical energy.
The heat is a result of friction in the porous core of the moon.
Due to cracks in the ice at the South Pole, geysers of water vapor, minerals and gases come up from hot springs on the seabed. Until now it was a mystery where that energy came from.
But now European and American researchers have provided a computer model with the latest data on Enceladus, and a possible explanation rolled out:
The rock core of Enceladus is not solid, but porous, with 20 to 30 percent empty space. The rock will therefore move under the influence of the changing gravity of Saturn - the moon describes an oval orbit around its planet. This creates friction in the core.
This friction generates heat, and in this way provides sufficient energy to keep the sea fluid and let geysers shoot through the ice. The model also shows that this 'heating' has been working for billions of years, which increases the chance of life.
Porous core provides life zones
Water seeps into the soil of Enceladus and is heated, releasing minerals and heat to the sea.