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Mars

Microorganisms and not humans might be the first inhabitants of Mars

With all the noise regarding colonising Mars one might wonder who would be Mars’ first residents. Maybe some of Earth’s most intelligent people with several degrees and training in astrophysics. Or it could even be a collection of microbes. 

A paper in the journal FEMS Microbiology Ecology suggests that the primary colonists of Mars should be microorganisms such as viruses, fungi that support several life processes on Earth. 

Jose Lopez, professor at Nova Southeastern University and the paper’s co-author suggested an approach to the colonisation of the planet starting with the study of microbes that might support life in foreign environments. Since life needs the support of essential microorganisms, surviving on barren planets ask for taking the essential microbes to that planet. 

The ideas in the paper violate the strict no-contamination guidelines from NASA and other space programs which have been followed for decades. Every equipment carried to space are sterilised to make them free from germs since no-risk is taken to damage the environments previously untouched. However according to Lopez and his colleagues, helpful microbes might initiate the process of transforming Mars into a planet sustaining life. Exploring new planets without the possibility of delivering microbes is hypothetical. 

The paper mentions that introduction of microbes should be considered as inevitable and not an accidental event. It also suggests that the most suitable microbes for this process would be the extremophiles that can survive and tolerate even the most cruel environments such as the tardigrades. But there is a lot of work to follow before permitting the delivery of microorganisms to Mars. They might be exposed to high radiation whereas the humans would evolve at high rates to live in that environment. 

The paper mainly argues for change in perspective towards microbes, considering them useful and not dangerous. Scientists are not yet sure of the specific microbes that would be helpful in this effort. 

Lopez said that the whole thing needs time for preparation, so they are not asking to rush in any order but to push it through only after proper research conducted on Earth. The paper also argues for a paradigm shift in the space policies essential for colonising space. 

The decision to deliver microbes also depends on the final goal. Another fact for consideration is that, for our own planet neither humans nor plants were the first residents, they were the single-celled microorganisms. 

Artist concept of black hole pulling a blue star

Flickering black hole observed by astronomers in great detail

Astronomers have observed a flickering black hole in the Milky Way in an amazing detail with the help of a high frame-rate method that has helped to understand the dynamics of these cosmic objects. MAXI J1820+070, the black hole was discovered in 2018. It is nearly 7 times the weight of Sun and is at a distance of 10000 light years from Earth. The findings appear in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal. 

In comparison to other black holes, it ways much lesser as the “lightest” black hole has a mass of 5 Suns. Besides this, it is flickering and emits X-rays and visible radiation as it consumes matter from a surrounding star. 

Small black holes are normally very hard to observe. The supermassive black hole at the centre of the Universe, Sagittarius A*, although quiet is easier to view since we can observe the orbits of the objects around it. Sgr A* weighs nearly 4 million times that of Sun, acting as the centre of a huge system. But a black hole that weighs only 7 times that of Sun would not have many orbiters. Several stars are in a binary system, where the black hole can consume material from their companions. 

Astronomers think that this is occurring with MAXI J1820+070 where it is consuming matter from its companion star, the material forming an accretion disc around it in which frictional and magnetic forces compress it producing a high amount of heat. This process results in flickering electromagnetic radiation which has been captured by researchers at a frame rate of 300 fps in optical light with the help of HiPERCAM on Gran Telescopio Canarias and X-rays from NICER observatory, NASA on the International Space Station. 

John Paice, astronomer at the University of Southampton said that the movie was created using real data, although slowing the speed by 10 times so that the rapid flares can be differentiated by the human eye. He added that the material surrounding the black hole can be observed to be bright enough to outshine the star which is being consumed. The fastest flickers last only few milliseconds which is more than the rays from hundred Suns emitted in a blink. 

This approach helped to track both radiation types where rise in one meant a rise in another. However a time gap was observed as the X-ray flashes preceded the optical light flashes by a split second which according to the researchers is an indication of plasma, very close to the black hole. This delay was also observed accreting black holes in 2017 and 2018 clearly indicating a pattern. 

Poshak Gandhi, astronomer at the University of Southampton said that the observation in three systems indicates that it is a characteristic of such black holes. It would help in understanding the flow of plasmas around black holes. This is very important data as these are extreme physical conditions which cannot be replicated in Earth. 

Mars Image

Researcher claims we might have already detected the presence of life on Mars

NASA had sent two Viking landers to Mars in the 1970s. This mission gave some very important insights about Mars along with some very intriguing results. One of the experiments hinted about the detection of life on the Red Planet. The evidence at that time was not found to be fully conclusive however Dr Gilbert Levin, one of the experimenters says that he is highly convinced that we had found extraterrestrial life at that time. His findings are reported in the Scientific American journal. 

The experiment named Labeled Release (LR) had a simple setup. A drop of diluted nutrients was added to the Martian soil sample which was tagged with a radioactive carbon isotope. If there were lifeforms emitting carbon dioxide on the surface of Mars, the radioactive tag would have been released hence getting detected by the experiment. 

The experiment was conducted by both of the Viking landers. One collected a sample exposed to sunlight and the other collected one from beneath a rock. Both of these experiments reported detection. This was again repeated after a week by using the same sample however there was no detection at that point. Hence the results were deemed inconclusive by Levin and partner Dr Patricia Ann Straat. 

Since the Viking Experiments failed to detect life, NASA concluded that the detection by LR was nothing but a result of chemical reactions. However the results of the experiment have been under assessment over the last few years and scientists have argued that this might be the first detection of alien life. This along with the results of several other experiments have made Mars a strong candidate for sustaining life. 

Levin mentions in his paper that there is no evidence against the possibility of life on the Red Planet. Studies have also shown that few terrestrial microbes could grow on Mars. 

Levin is correct in suggesting that the possibility of life cannot be ignored although we cannot take lack of proper evidence as proof for existence. He mentions that efforts should be made for life detection experiments in the next mission to Mars. An improved version of the LR experiment with an ability to detect chiral metabolism have been proposed by Levin and his partner scientist to be sent for confirming the existence of life. Living things can distinguish between left and right handed organic molecules which cannot be done by non-biological chemical reactions. 

Existence of life on Mars has been debated for several years now, there has been no concrete proof yet but we might be nearing towards some solid evidence.

Universe consisting of fuzzy dark matter galaxies visualized by researchers

Astronomers keen to understand the reasons for death of galaxies in the universe

Galaxies are getting killed in the extreme regions of the universe as their star formation is being closed and researchers are intrigued to know the reasons behind it. A new program termed as the Virgo Environment Traced in Carbon Monoxide survey (VERTICO) is investigating how the galaxies are being killed. 

Toby Brown, the principal investigator of VERTICO led a team of 30 experts using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) for mapping the molecular hydrogen gas, the fuel from which new stars are created, at a very high resolution in 51 galaxies in the Virgo Cluster, the nearest galaxy cluster. 

ALMA was commissioned in 2013 at a price of USD 1.4 billion. It is an array of connected radio dishes at a height of 5000 metres in Atacama Desert, Northern Chile. This is an international cooperation between the United States, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, Chile, South Korea and Europe. This is the largest astronomical project that is ground based and is the most advanced millimetre wavelength telescope to have been constructed. This is best suited to study cold gas clouds from which new stars are created that cannot be observed by visible light. Programs such as VERTICO are designed to address the issues leading to a major breakthrough in this domain. 

The location of galaxies in the universe and their interaction with surroundings are major influences in their ability to form stars. But it is unknown how this environment rules on the life and death of the galaxies. 

The galaxy clusters are the most massive environments in universe which contain many hundreds of galaxies. The presence of high gravitational forces results in high acceleration of the galaxies, superheating the plasma to extreme temperatures. In these dense interiors, galaxies interact with their surroundings that can kill their star formation. The main focus of VERTICO is to understand the mechanisms that remove star formation. 

When galaxies fall through clusters, the intergalactic plasma can remove the gas in a very violent process known as ram pressure stripping. Clearing the fuel for star formation can result in killing the galaxy where no new stars are formed. The high temperature in clusters can stop the cooling and condensing of hot gas onto galaxies. Here the gas is slowly consumed as stars are formed leading to a gradual shut down in formation of stars known as strangulation. 

These processes vary a lot but each leaves behind a unique imprint on the star forming gas of the galaxy. VERTICO aims to bring together a complete picture from each of these processes building on the previous work to understand the impact of environment on evolution of galaxy. 

As Virgo Cluster is the nearest massive cluster, we can capture snapshots of the different stages of the galaxies. As a result, a complete picture of how star formation is shut in the cluster galaxies can be built. Virgo Cluster galaxies have been observed at nearly all wavelengths of the spectrum the observations of the star forming gas along with the required sensitivity do not exist as of now. 

VERTICO aims to generate high resolution maps of the molecular hydrogen gas and understand the exact quenching mechanisms, ram pressure stripping responsible for killing the galaxies. This will improve the understanding of the evolution of galaxies in the densest places of the universe. 

 

For the first time, meat has been grown in space

For the first time, meat has been grown in space

Technology has changed almost every aspect of our lives and now it is also influencing the way astronauts eat food. The first astronauts took their meals from tubes similar to the kinds of toothpaste, however, now the astronauts can have fruits and ice cream with a seasoning of liquid pepper and salt on their meals. Although there are restrictions to food, for example, any food leaving crumbs are considered dangerous as these particles can clog the electrical systems or air filters of the spacecraft. 

The foods also need to last for longer time periods if the resupply missions go wrong somehow. As a result, tech companies are trying new techniques to grow food in the spacecraft itself. Aleph Farms, an Israeli food-startup oversaw meat growth in space for the first time by using a 3D printer. It is not a fully new experiment as the company has cooked lab-grown steaks from December 2018 suggesting meat growth in different kinds of environment. 

Aleph Farms extracts cells from a cow by using biopsy which is then kept in a broth of nutrients. It simulates the environment inside the body of a cow and then they are grown into steak pieces. The taste is not exactly the same but it resembles the flavor and texture of regular beef. 

CEO and co-founder, Didier Toubia said that they are the only company to grow fully-textured meat which has all the muscle fibers and blood vessels needed for the tissues. For growing meat in space, the company had to tweak their process a bit. The cow cells along with nutrient broth were placed in closed vials. They were loaded to the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft in Kazakhstan. It took off for the Russian end of the International Space Station on September 25, orbiting 400 kilometers from the surface of the earth. 

On arrival at the station, the vials were inserted into a magnetic printer from 3D Bioprinting Solutions, a Russian company. Cells were replicated by the printer for producing muscle tissues. They returned to Earth without any consumption by the astronauts. It was a conceptual experiment and the company hopes to provide sources of protein in missions to deep space, moon, and Mars in the future.

In 2015, romaine lettuce was grown by astronauts in the International Space Station. NASA is creating a “space garden” for making lettuce, carrots and other fruits on Gateway, a space station proposed to orbit Moon.  

Meat printing suggests the companies can pursue this in the harsh environments where there is a scarcity of land or water. It takes almost 5200 gallons of water to produce a kilogram of steak. Cultured meat, on the other hand, uses 10 times less land and water than normal livestock agriculture. It also quicker to cook. Aleph Farms calls its meat, “minute steak” as it only takes a few minutes to cook. 

We have to find ways to produce food while conserving the natural resources as the resources for the food industry lead to 37 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Aleph Farms said that their experiment was a response to such issues and the Americans, Russians, Israelis, and Arabs need to unite for addressing the climate and food security concerns. 

Curiosity obtains traces of salt in the last lakes of Gale Crater

Curiosity obtains traces of salt in the last lakes of Gale Crater

The lakes on Earth turn salty on drying out and the same incident happened when the Curiosity Mars climbed to identify the younger rocks. It found some of the salts which were left behind gathering insights on life could have prospered, rather than the mere survival on Mars. Gale crater was selected in part as it provides the possibility to investigate sedimentary rocks of different ages layered on top of each other. Curiosity has found periodic clay-bearing deposits containing 30-50 percent calcium sulfate by weight as reported in a Nature Geoscience paper.

All the rocks are 3.3-3.7 billion years old dating to the Hesperian period. Likewise, rich deposits have not been found in the older rocks of the crater. According to Dr. William Rapin of the California Institute of Technology and co-authors, the salts are present due to the percolation in the rocks by the waters of the bygone lakes which were very salty. Older rocks were much less salty although they were also exposed to the waters. Curiosity might detect more recent examples even though the younger ones were never touched by water.

Like a desert lake on Earth, the waters of the Gale crater evaporated, leaving a saltier residue, but it was an intermittent process on Mars that lasted 400 million years. The rocks have been subjected to forces of weathering over this vast time period even without water, and the calcium sulfate-enhanced portions are more resistant to erosion, producing mini versions of the formations in places such as Monument Valley, where harder rocks extend above the terrain.

Curiosity found a 10-meter (33-feet) slope containing 26-36 percent magnesium sulfate, in the 150 meters (500 feet) of calcium sulfate-enriched layers. Researchers believe that before the deposition of more soluble salts, it precipitated out first.

The paper mentions that their outcomes do not compromise the life search in the Gale crater. Terrestrial magnesium sulfate-rich and hypersaline lakes are known to sustain halotolerant biota while the preservation of biosignatures may be supported by crystallization of sulfate salts.

The occasional bursts of salty water are observed even today hence it is not unique to Gale crater in having such salts. As the planet dried, sulfate deposits have been identified by Martian orbiters across several places on Mars and it is the first instance where a rover has been operated its instruments over these samples. The periodic bursts of sulfate salts found by Curiosity showed Gale crater had many rounds of drying with several wet periods rather than one single great drought.

Journal Reference: Nature Geoscience

New information obtained on the first plant on the Moon sprouted by China

New information obtained about the first plant on the Moon sprouted by China

It was a historic moment for China when it’s Chang’e-4 spacecraft landed on the far side of the moon on the 3rd of January 2019. It became the first spacecraft to visit this area of the moon. It also carried a 2.6kg mini-biosphere known as the Lunar Micro Ecosystem. 

This biosphere measures 18cm in length and 16cm in diameter. It took six lifeforms in conditions simulating Earth except for lunar radiation and micro-gravity. The six lifeforms include cotton seeds, potato seeds, yeast, fruit fly eggs, rapeseeds, and Arabidopsis thaliana, a weed. 

This is the first biological growth experiment to be conducted on the Moon. The cotton seeds gave positive results. 

It took in January 2019 when the lander reached the Moon. The team thought that there was one leaf but the data shows there were two instead. A 3D reconstructed image based on image processing and data analysis shows very clearly two leaves. However, no other organism produced any result. 

The LME was not heated, so after the first lunar day or 14 Earth days, the cotton sprout died since the temperature dropped down to negative 190 Celsius. The experiment however continued for testing the longevity. 

Xie Gengxin is the leader of the experiment from the Technology Research Institute, Chongqing University. No papers are to be published based on this experiment. There were initial plans of sending a tortoise to the moon however it was prevented by the mission constraints. 

Xie said in an interview that it was due to the weight constraint as it could not exceed more than three kilograms on the Chang’e-4 probe. It would have been torture for the tortoise since it would have died with the temperature drop along with oxygen running out in 20 days. The first tortoises in space were two tortoises carried by the Zond 5 mission of the Soviet Union in 1968. Plants and fruit flies were also carried but the tortoises were not provided any food. They were starved but they made it to Earth alive. 

Xie and his group are looking to the next Moon mission as they hope to send more lifeforms. They would send complex life forms according to the payload of the mission. China has planned Chang’e-6, a return mission to the Moon in the mid-2020s. China sent out invitations for international partners for involvement in the additional 10kg of payload the mission in 2018. Chang’e-6 is a backup to Chang’e-5 which is meant to be the first sample return mission for China. 

Many other nations are planning for these lunar biological experiments such as India, the United States, Russia, Japan along with private companies. With long-duration visits to Moon in the future, researchers will study the responses of other organisms to that environment, besides humans. 

 

Researchers trace a neutrino to a collision situated 3.8 billion light-years away

Researchers trace a neutrino to a collision situated 3.8 billion light-years away

A single neutrino was detected on September 2017 in Antarctica by a neutrino detector. It was the first high energy neutrino which was traced back to a blazar galaxy named TXS 0506+056 at a distance of 3.8 billion light-years from us. However, it raised the question of why only this galaxy was the neutrino traced back to? 

Researchers might have obtained the answer. The relativistic jet from the supermassive black hole might have acted as a cosmic particle collider resulting in neutrinos that streamed through Earth due to the jet’s shape. Hence this indicates that a binary supermassive black hole is present at TXS 0506+056’s centre, the end result of the merger of two galaxies. The findings appear in the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal. 

Neutrinos are one of the most abundant subatomic particles in the Universe. They are not charged, nearly massless and do not interact with any object. As a result they are quite hard to detect. They interacted with the ice present below the surface of Antarctica producing a shower of particles, which produced the Cherenkov radiation observed by the Cherenkov detectors at IceCube Neutrino Observatory. 

Tracking a neutrino is another challenging task and it took a multi-messenger astronomy to achieve it. As a result, we now know that this neutrino named IceCube-170922A originated from a blazar. So we might conclude that only blazars are the only source for the neutrinos. But TXS 0506+056 is the only blazar traced back for the neutrinos. Hence an international group of researchers led by Silke Britzen, Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, Germany started to find the reason. Britzen said that they wanted to know the reason for TXS 0506+056 being so special, understand the creation process of neutrinos and localise the site of emission, studying through radio images of high resolution. 

A series of observations by the Very Long Baseline Array between 2009 and 2018 were reanalysed by the team studying the kinematics of the jet along with the flux-density evolution of individual jet components. Special attention was given to the period of 2014 and 2015 where high neutrino activity was detected. 

Jet dynamics were not found to be smooth and undisturbed as predicted, however some jet parts were colliding with other parts. It might be the result of new jet colliding with old jet or jets from different sources or clashing of jets from the same source. Flaring flux density was identified in six jet parts near the collision site, supporting the hypothesis. 

Markus Bottcher, Northwest University, South Africa said that the neutrino detection can only be explained by the collision of the jetted material. Besides providing important insights, it solves the question if jets are leptonic, consisting of electrons, positrons or hadronic, having both electrons and protons. Some of the jet has to be hadronic for the neutrino to be detected. 

The jet was also found to be curved and the black hole wobbling leading to the precession of the jet similar to a wobbling top. There might be a second black hole producing a second jet. Christian Fendt, astronomer at Max Planck Institute for Astronomy said that deeper analysis of the jet sources results in new complicated understanding of the jet dynamics and internal structures. The existence of binary black holes is due to the formation of galaxies by galaxy mergers. 

Journal Reference: Astronomy & Astrophysics

Universe consisting of fuzzy dark matter galaxies visualized by researchers

Universe consisting of fuzzy dark matter galaxies visualized by researchers

Dark matter is considered to be the initial ingredient for the first galaxies in the universe. After the Big Bang, dark matter particles would have combined in gravitational “halos”, pulling gas into cores which on condensation resulted in the first galaxies. Scientists, however, know very little about these particles since they have not been detected directly. 

Researchers at Princeton, MIT and Cambridge discovered that the appearance of the very first galaxies would differ a lot depending on the type of dark matter. The team has successfully simulated the appearance of early galaxies if the dark matter were “fuzzy” instead of cold or warm. The findings appear in the Physical Review Letters journal. 

Dark matter is cold in most scenarios composed of slow-moving particles and does not interact with normal matter besides gravitational forces. The warm version is lighter and faster than cold dark matter. On the other hand, fuzzy dark matter consists of ultralight particles, each with the mass of 1 octillionth of an electron mass, cold dark matter particle is 105 times heavier than an electron. 

It was found in simulations that when dark matter is cold, the first galaxies would have been formed in spherical halos. But with the dark matter being warm or fuzzy, the early galaxies would have formed in tail-like filaments. Researchers can look back into the earlier universes with telescopes coming online and deduce from the galaxy formation patterns if the dark matter is fuzzy instead of being warm or cold. 

Mark Vogelsberger, a physics professor at Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, MIT said the type of dark matter present today may be known from the earlier universes. If the filament pattern is visible, then it is a fuzzy dark matter. 

Till now the hypothesis of dark matter being cold has been successful in the description of the grand scale of the observable universe. Hence, galaxy formation is modeled on the assumption that dark matter is cold. However, Vogelsberger pointed out some of the discrepancies between predictions and observations of cold dark matter. This is highlighted in the case of smaller galaxies where the theoretical models do not agree with the actual distribution of dark matter. This is where alternate theories of warm and fuzzy dark matter have been proposed.

Anastasia Fialkov of Cambridge University, co-author of the paper said that the motivation of fuzzy dark matter is from fundamental physics such as string theory. The final validation lies in the cosmic structures. 

Fuzzy dark matter consists of particles so light that they exhibit quantum, wave behavior instead of individual particles. Philip Mocz of Princeton University, the lead author of the paper said that the first galaxies would differ from the galaxies in the late universe providing hints about the nature of the dark matter. 

A cubic portion of the early universe measuring 3 million light-years was simulated by the researchers to observe a fuzzy and cold early universe. It was tested through different periods of time to understand the formation of galaxies if the dark matter were either cold or warm or fuzzy. 

Simulations of how galaxies form in cold, warm and fuzzy (left to right) dark matter scenarios. Credit: Universities of Princeton, Sussex, Cambridge

Simulations of how galaxies form in cold, warm and fuzzy (left to right) dark matter scenarios. (Credit: Universities of Princeton, Sussex, Cambridge

The simulation was started based on the dark matter distribution known to researchers based on cosmic microwave radiation, “relic radiation” detected 400,000 years after Big Bang took place.  Vogelsberger said that there is no constant density for dark matter. For warm and cold scenarios, existing algorithms were used for simulation. However, for fuzzy dark matter, a new method was used. 

The simulation of cold dark matter was modified for solving two extra equations in order to simulate the formation of galaxies under the fuzzy dark matter. Schrodinger’s equation describes the behavior of quantum particle as a wave and Poisson’s equation tells how the wave creates a density field, dark matter distribution leading to gravity which is the pulling force for the formation of galaxies. This was added to the model about gas behavior in the universe and how it condenses to galaxies responding to gravity. 

In each of the scenarios, the formation of galaxies took place where the concentration of dark matter collapsed from gravitation was high. The pattern differed on it being cold or warm or fuzzy. 

In cold dark matter, the formation of galaxies took place in spherical halos and subhalos. Warm dark matter created galaxies in filaments resembling tails with the absence of subhalos. The fuzzy dark matter led to formation along filaments succeeded by effects of quantum wave as a result of which galaxies took shape of striated filaments. This is due to interference, overlapping of waves which resulted in an alternating pattern of dark matter concentrations, over-dense and under dense. 

Vogelsberger said that there would be high gravity in over-dense regions resulting in the formation of galaxies in such areas. This is replicated throughout the early universe. Researchers are developing detailed predictions of the appearances of early galaxies in a universe of fuzzy dark matter. The main target is to give a map to telescopes such as James Webb Space Telescope that can run back in time to find the earliest galaxies. If filamentary galaxies are observed, then it is the indication that dark matter is fuzzy. 

Journal Reference: Physical Review Letters

NASA detects organic compounds suitable for life in an ocean on Enceladus

NASA detects organic compounds suitable for life in an ocean on Enceladus

Scientists have detected the basic ingredients for life from an ocean on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons. Analysis of NASA data shows the presence of organic compounds in plumes of liquid water shooting into space from the ocean. The findings appear in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal. 

These compounds contain nitrogen, oxygen and play a major role in creating amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Researchers previously detected organic molecules from the moon but this is the first time molecules were found to be dissolved in water. This indicates that compounds could take part in chemical reactions under the sea leading to amino acids. 

Frank Postberg, one of the study’s authors said that this work reveals the building blocks that are abundant in the ocean of Enceladus. This is a positive indication to carry out research for the habitability of the moon. Jets of ocean water and ice shoot out into space regularly through the cracks in the crust of the moon. 

The compounds were dissolved in the ocean water which then evaporated with surface water finally getting condensed and frozen into the crust of the moon. They were carried into space by the plumes and detected by Cassini spacecraft of NASA. This is an indication that Enceladus might have its own method of generation of life. 

In the oceans of Earth, seawater combines with magma which comes out through the cracks in the ocean floor. This results in the production of hydrothermal vents whose temperature can rise till 370 degrees Celsius. The water from these vents is rich in hydrogen, catalyzing chemical reactions of organic compounds into amino acids. These then combine to form proteins, one of the main components of life. This method works without sunlight and this is significant in the case of Enceladus where the sunlight is reflected back to space in its entirety. So life has to develop in the dark. 

Nozair Khawaja, the research team leader said that the molecules might follow the same pathway in oceans of Enceladus as that of Earth. The discovery of molecules forming amino acids is quite significant. The compounds discovered by the team last were not soluble in water hence researchers were not sure if the organic molecules on Enceladus were capable of life formation. 

Cassini was launched in 1997 and it spent 13 years in the exploration of Saturn and its moons. Scientists purposefully crashed the spacecraft into Saturn thereby ending its mission as they did not want to contaminate Enceladus or Titan in any manner.

Cassini found a global ocean containing liquid saltwater below the surface of Enceladus and captured images of water jets shooting to space. The data about their composition was collected in 2008. Scientists will continue studying the data collected by Cassini as NASA also plans of sending a probe to Titan, another moon of Saturn which also contains organic compounds. Dragonfly, a nuclear-powered helicopter will start for Titan in 2026 and arrive in 2034.

Reference: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal.