The ocean inside Saturn's moon Enceladus may be enriched with phosphorus, an important element for life as we know it, new research reveals.
Phosphorus is a vital component of life's biochemistry. For instance, it joins with sugars to provide a "backbone" to DNA, bonding the four nucleobases to the double helix. Phosphorus is also used in cell membranes and bones, as well as in a molecule called adenosine triphosphate, which carries metabolic energy around the body.
Yet previous studies had suggested that phosphorus would be rare on Enceladus. Scientists caught a glimpse of the ocean's makeup via the huge water geysers that spray out through "tiger stripes," deep vents in the moon's icy surface. On numerous occasions prior to its mission ending in 2017, NASA's Cassini spacecraft flew through and "tasted" these geysers, analyzing the chemical components. The spacecraft detected elements and molecules that are instrumental to life as we know it, including organic molecules such as methane, plus ammonia, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and possibly hydrogen sulfide.
To read more, click here.