Scientists have detected traces of complex organics blasting out of the depths of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. This is the best evidence yet for alien life.

Using data collected by NASA’s late-great Cassini space probe, scientists have been able to discover complex organic molecules on Saturn’s ocean moon Enceladus.

“This is the first-ever detection of complex organics coming from an extraterrestrial water world,” study lead author Frank Postberg, a planetary scientist at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, told Space.com.

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has sampled plumes of material from cracks in Enceladus’ icy surface shortly before it deliberately plunged in Saturn’s atmosphere.

So, an international team of scientists has studied this data. Therefore, finding evidence of carbon-rich substances formed in the heart of the moon.

Cassini spacecraft has initially found evidence of an enormous ocean of water residing underneath the moon’s icy crust. Subsequent flybys provided signs of smaller organic compounds like methane gas, as well as hydrogen that indicated deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

About the Discovery

Sometimes, surface cracks appear on Enceladus, shooting plumes of vapor and ice grains into space. On October 28, 2015, the Cassini probe had the opportunity to fly through these plumes and collected samples. The probe made measurements with its Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) and Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) instruments. It collected samples both inside the plume and Saturn’s E-ring, which is formed by plume ice grains escaping from the moon.

Scientists carefully inspected this data with a mass spectrometer. Thus, detecting signatures consistent with large, complex, carbon-rich organic molecules. Then, by comparing the spectral lines to an analogous experiment, they were able to verify these findings.

However, the researchers warned that these new findings are not solid evidence for life, as biological reactions are not the only potential sources of complex organic molecules. But on the other side, they are a necessary precursor for life.

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Thumbnail image: Enceladus spewing plumes. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute