Microbes On Enceladus? Methane On Saturn's Moon Can't Be Explained By Known Geochemical Processes

Microbes On Enceladus? Methane On Saturn's Moon Can't Be Explained By Known Geochemical Processes

The amount of methane found in the plumes was a surprise - because it can't be explained by known geochemical processes. Which could have implications for life there, such as microbes - methanogens - that 'eat' dihydrogen and produce methane. On Earth, methane can be produced through hydrothermal activity, but at a slow rate. First, the researchers assessed what hydrothermal production of dihydrogen would best fit Cassini's observations, and whether this production could provide enough \"food\" to sustain a population of Earthlike hydrogenotrophic methanogens. The results suggest that even the highest possible estimate of abiotic methane production – or methane production without biological aid – based on known hydrothermal chemistry is far from sufficient to explain the methane concentration measured in the plumes.

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