LOS ANGELES, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) – New kinds of organic compounds, the ingredients of amino acids, have been detected in the plumes bursting from Saturn’s moon Enceladus, according to a latest release of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
The findings are the result of the ongoing deep dive into data from NASA’s Cassini mission.
Powerful hydrothermal vents eject material from Enceladus’ core, which mixes with water from the moon’s massive subsurface ocean before it is released into space as water vapor and ice grains.
The newly discovered molecules, condensed onto the ice grains, were determined to be nitrogen- and oxygen-bearing compounds, according to JPL.
Although the Cassini mission ended in September 2017, the data it provided will be mined for decades. A research team used data from the spacecraft’s Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA), which detected ice grains emitted from Enceladus into Saturn’s E ring.
The scientists used the CDA’s mass spectrometer measurements to determine the composition of organic material in the grains.
The new findings complement the team’s discovery last year of large, insoluble complex organic molecules believed to float on the surface of Enceladus’ ocean.