Ever since studies started suggesting that chemical reactions between water and rock on Saturn’s moon Enceladus could provide enough energy in the water to feed microbial life, scientists have been searching for proof that the right sort of reactions really do occur.
The discovery of seven exoplanets around a star 40 light years from our Sun has raised the possibility that they could harbour life. Why? Because the astronomers who made the discovery believe some of the planets may have liquid water. And on Earth, wherever there is liquid water, there is life. But we believe we can look much closer to Earth
Sometimes, I think scientists are just that little bit too modest. A new paper in Science has a humdinger of a title: “Localized aliphatic organic material on the surface of Ceres”. It doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue and may not even seem that important. But what the researchers have discovered is a huge deal. They’ve found organic compounds – the kind of molecules from which life on Earth originated – on the surface of Ceres, the solar system’s largest asteroid.
Saturn is home to more than 60 moons – from the massive Titan and the crater-riddled Phoebe, to Enceladus with its geysers. Enceladus in particular has been put forward as a good candidate for harbouring microbial life, thanks to its warm internal ocean. After all, if intelligent life could evolve on Earth in a few billion years, why couldn’t at least some simple organisms exist elsewhere in our 4.5 billion-year-old solar system?