Nouran Alyousif

Year: 2018-19

Nouran Alyousif

School: Manarat Al Riyadh International School for Girls

Grade: 8

City: Riyadh

Target: Enceladus

"Shiny, white, reflective, these are just a few words to describe the one the most breathtaking places in our solar system, Enceladus. Its the 6th largest of Saturn's moon, it's about 500 kilometers in diameter and It was discovered by William Herschel in 1789. Scientists and astronomers should send another spacecraft to learn more about this icy world because Enceladus has water, hydrothermal activity, and organic compounds which are all hints that there may be life and more to discover about this amazing world.

This amazing moon has an ocean's worth of water under its surface about 20-25 miles thick, and jets of water vapor and ice erupt from cracks at its southern pole. Water is the key component of life so this is the first clue that shows that Enceladus could potentially carry life. Also after the Cassini spacecraft drove through some of the ice geysers in 2015 to find out what compounds are inside, scientists discovered that water, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, ammonia, and methane were inside.

This is another clue that shows that Enceladus could harbor life because there are some methane-producing organisms here on earth. Most likely only single-celled organisms could survive in Enceladus due to harsh conditions, so scientists got together some methane-producing species of archaea to see if they could possibly survive in Enceladus. Then they put them in an environment(made in a lab) that is similar to the conditions in Enceladus to see how they would react. They not only wanted to see if they could survive but also if they could thrive because some gases in Enceladus don’t allow organisms to grow, such as “ammonia.”

One did, “methane thermococcus okinawensis” could, theoretically, live in Enceladus’s ocean, and it's also the only microorganism that can make methane without oxygen. Because scientists found one species that could live there suggests that other species could potentially live there. Scientists also have discovered that the south pole of Enceladus is hot, the sea under the ice is warmed by tidal heating. The tidal heating most likely is why there is an ocean because it melts the water and it mixes with other things such as ammonia to lower its melting point and then it ends up spewing into space.

All the things you need for life are in Enceladus. There is a heat/energy source, a water source, nitrogen, and organic materials. It's more accessible than Europa and Titan because the jets of water will always be there so scientists should always get samples and the geysers can extend thousands of kilometers up into space. They even end up going in to orbit around Saturn, which is how Saturn’s E-ring was formed.

Enceladus helped us learn about how one of Saturn’s rings was formed and hopefully it helps us learn about life beyond Earth too."

Solar System News