Cassini Discovered Complex Organic Molecules in Enceladus’ Plumes

Cassini story

Image Credit: NASA

Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus harbors a big ocean of water beneath its icy crust, which is evident from erupted water plumes from Enceladus’ surface. The Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) on Cassini can measure the composition of erupted ice grains when Cassini dives into the moon’s plumes. Previous study has intriguingly identified the simplest organic molecules containing a few carbon atoms. Frank Postberg and his colleagues analyzed the materials from the plume from a more recent sampling, and they found much more complex organic molecules, with masses above 200 atomic mass units. This finding strengthens the idea that this ocean world may host life. READ MORE »