Enceladus
Year: 2018-19

Sanjay Sarkar

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"Enceladus, the sixth-largest moon of Saturn, is named after the giant Enceladus from Greek Mythology. It’s a smooth satellite of Saturn having more reflective brightness than any other celestial body in the Solar System. It is mostly covered by fresh and clean ice. Enceladus was first discovered by William Herschel on August 1789, but little was known about it, until Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 passed nearby it in 1980’s. It was in 2005, Cassini revealed its surface’s environment in higher details.

The great story that comes from the Saturn System is from this tiny moon Enceladus with a diameter of only 500 km. It is perhaps the must go to place in the Solar System to search for life. This tiny bright ball is hiding within the Saturn’s E-Ring. The Magnetometer team of NASA found that magnetic field of Saturn was deflected to the side. As the team went closer they noticed a change in brightness and saw material coming out of the South Pole of Enceladus. The team found something extraordinary, more than 100 enormous geysers, shooting water and ice crystals out in the space from snowy white surface. The mystery of the Enceladus is that the South Pole is hot. The source of the water lies in a subterranean ocean or sea hidden beneath the icy crust in the South Pole warmed by tidal heating. It’s a mystery as Enceladus is small and is not supposed to have that much heat source that melts water underground. Enceladus is currently geologically active. There is macromolecular organics on Enceladus’s jet plumes as sampled by Cassini.

It’s believed that earliest known life forms on Earth was found in hydrothermal vent precipitates. Enceladus too has hydrothermal activities,

Enceladus has.....

1. Water Source

2. Energy Source

3. Organic Material Source

4. Nitrogen Source

5. Carbon dioxide

A necessity for life. It’s really a must go place in our Solar System for further investigation and astrobiological importance. There is a high possibility that the activities in Enceladus could be a potential oasis of habitability. The presence of ample hydrogen in Enceladus’s ocean means microbes- if it exists- could use it to obtain energy by combining the hydrogen with carbon dioxide dissolved in the water. The chemical reaction is known as “methanogenesis” because it produces methane as byproduct and is at the root of life. May be Enceladus is a habitat for some kind of organisms that is very different from those found on Earth. There is a high probability for life in this tiny satellite of Saturn.

Taking all things into account I think, Enceladus wins over Mars, Europa and even Titan etc for search of life outside our mother Earth…...thats why we should send a upgraded version of Cassini specially designed to drill and know more about Enceladus and do sampling of the large south polar subsurface ocean of liquid water with a thickness of around 10 km."

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