Phosphorus from Saturn’s Moon
Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning partners: Caltech/IPAC, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
· Cassini mosaic image of Enceladus: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
· Close-up Cassini image of Enceladus’ south pole: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
· Cassini image of Enceladus’ south pole: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
· Close-up Cassini image of Enceladus surface features: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
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Patchwork square and rectangle color images of planets, stars and other objects in the universe. Text, News from the Universe.
A pale moon with variegated gray stripes and craters against a black sky with scattered stars. Text, Phosphorous from Saturn's moon Enceladus, June 21, 2023.
Using data from NASA's retired Cassini mission, scientists have discovered the element phosphorous in ice ejected from Saturn's moon Enceladus.
The moon comes closer into view, showing greater detail of its variegated gray stripes and craters.
Text, Phosphorous is a building block of DNA and also a fundamental part of energy-carrying molecules present in all life on Earth.
Haze rises from the rounded horizon of a gray cratered surface. An arrow with the word "plumes" points to the haze. Text, Enceladus has an ocean under its icy crust, which has been detected erupting in plumes through surface cracks. Phosphorous was detected in ice from these plumes.
The discovery is the first time this essential element has been discovered in an ocean beyond Earth.
Light shines from behind a gray moon in a black starry sky. Text, Scientists stress that life has not been found on Enceladus or anywhere else beyond Earth.
Having the necessary ingredients is only one factor that determines whether an environment can host life.
A close up of the craters and ridges and valleys on Enceladus.
Text, The investigation into the possibility of life on Enceladus, and other ocean worlds in the Solar System, continues.
This news was brought to you in part by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena California.