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Microbes can potentially survive on Saturn's icy moon Enceladus


Saturn's icy moon Enceladus may be able to support organisms that are similar to those that thrive in the harshest environments and conditions on Earth.

Enceladus has frigid temperatures at the surface, but there is liquid ocean beneath the moon's icy shell. The water is believed to reach up to 194 degrees Fahrenheit at the bottom. Earlier studies also showed that the floor of this ocean likely features hot water vents that are similar to those that host ecosystem on Earth's ocean floors. Now, the new research published in the journal Nature Communications showed proof that microbes can potentially survive in the ocean's water. "We were able to show that, under putative Enceladus conditions, biological methane production occurs in the lab", said Simon Rittmann, from the University of Vienna, "hence, some of the methane detected on Enceladus could in principle be of biological origin." [read more]

Taubner R.-S., Pappenreiter P., Zwicker J., Smrzka D., Pruckner C., Kolar P. Bernacchi S., Seifert A.H., Krajete A., Bach W., Peckmann J., Paulik C., Firneis M.G., Schleper C., Rittmann S.K.-M.R. (2018): Biological methane production under putative Enceladus-like conditions. Nature Communications, Doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-02876-y

Water ice fountains of Saturn's moon Enceladus (illustration: NASA).