சனிக்கிரகத்தின் நிலவில் உயிர்கள் இருக்கலாம்

பூமிக்கு வெளியே உயிர்கள் வாழ்வதற்கு வாய்ப்புள்ள மிகச்சிறந்த இடமாக,, சனிக்கிரகத்தின் நிலவுகளில் ஒன்றான என்சலடஸ் (Enceladus ) இருக்கலாம் என்று வானியலாளர்கள் அறிவித்துள்ளனர்.

தனது பதின்மூன்று ஆண்டு பயணத்தின் இறுதி நிலையில் இருக்கும் கசினி (Cassini) என்கிற நாசாவின் விண்ணோடம், இந்த சனிக்கிரகத்து நிலவின் மேற்பரப்பிலிருந்து பீறிட்டு அடிக்கும் வெப்பநீரை கண்டறிந்துள்ளது. பூமியில் அதே போன்ற வேப்பநீர்ம பகுதியில்  பல உயிரினங்கள் வாழ்ந்தன. அதனடிப்படையில் உயிர்கள் வாழ ஏதுவான சூழல் அங்கும் நிலவக்கூடும் என்கிற முடிவுக்கு விஞ்ஞானிகள் வந்துள்ளனர்.

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Saturn moon ‘able to support life’

Saturn’s ice-crusted moon Enceladus may now be the single best place to go to look for life beyond Earth.

The assessment comes on the heels of new observations at the 500km-wide world made by the Cassini probe.

It has flown through and sampled the waters from a subsurface ocean that is being jetted into space.

Cassini’s chemistry analysis strongly suggests the Enceladean seafloor has hot fluid vents – places that on Earth are known to teem with life.

“We’re pretty darn sure that the internal ocean of Enceladus is habitable and we need to go back and investigate it further,” said Cassini scientist Dr Hunter Waite from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

The sub-surface ocean on Enceladus is thought to be many kilometres deep, kept liquid by the heat generated from the constant gravitational squeezing the moon receives from the mighty Saturn.

At the mid-ocean ridges on our planet, seawater is drawn through, and reacts with, hot upwelling rocks that are rich in iron and magnesium. As the minerals in these rocks incorporate H2O molecules into their crystal structure, they release hydrogen – a byproduct that can be used by some microbes as an energy source to drive their metabolism.

It is the definitive signal for molecular hydrogen in the plumes of Enceladus that Cassini has now confirmed.

The Cassini mission is coming to a close. Having spent 12 years circling Saturn, it is now running low on fuel and will be dumped in the atmosphere of the ringed planet in September – to ensure it cannot collide with Enceladus at some future date and contaminate it.

Dr Waite said: “For life, you need liquid water, organics, and the CHNOPS elements (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, sulphur). OK, we haven’t yet measured phosphorus and sulphur at Enceladus. But you also need some kind of metabolic energy source, and the new Cassini results are an important contribution in that regard.”

Source : BBC

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