More organics detected in Enceladus’ plumes


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Using Cassini archived data scientists have detected evidence of new organic molecules in the water-ice plumes coming from the tiger stripe fissures on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Powerful hydrothermal vents eject material from Enceladus’ core, which mixes with water from the moon’s massive subsurface ocean before it is released into space as water vapor and ice grains. The newly discovered molecules, condensed onto the ice grains, were determined to be nitrogen- and oxygen-bearing compounds.

On Earth, similar compounds are part of chemical reactions that produce amino acids, the building blocks of life. Hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor provide the energy that fuels the reactions. Scientists believe Enceladus’ hydrothermal vents may operate in the same way, supplying energy that leads to the production of amino acids.

For clarity I should point out that I am using the term “organics” as chemists do. It refers not to life, but to any molecule that is formed using carbon.

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2 comments

  • Col Beausabre

    Bob, As the son of a chemical engineer – which discipline is almost entirely based on organic chemistry – and as someone who minored in chemystery in college, I thank you for using the term “organic” properly. I always laugh at the the people who advertise their wares with the claim, “it’s organic”. Of course it is, you pinhead, if it wasn’t, our bodies couldn’t use it as food.

  • Col Beausabre: I second the motion.

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