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Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, is a leading candidate in the search for extraterrestrial life in our solar system. One new study improves the moon’s likelihood of holding life. Scientists have found that, under Enceladus-like conditions, certain microbes known as methanogenic archaea can grow and produce methane from carbon dioxide and hydrogen gases.

These researchers suggest that the geochemical reactions in Enceladus’ rocky core could produce enough methane to support such microbes — pointing a hypothetical ecosystem for such life.

To reach these conclusions, the research team, led by Simon Rittmann of the University of Vienna, used unique gas compositions and pressures in the lab to mimic the environment that is predicted to exist on Enceladus. They then cultured three different microscopic organism species in this environment. They found that, among the species cultivated, Methanothermococcus okinawensis was able to produce methane and thrive despite the presence of growth-inhibiting compounds. The resulting study was published in the journal Nature.

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Category: Science