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Organic material detected at Enceladus
Posted: Sat, Mar 29, 2008, 10:42 AM ET (1442 GMT)
Cassini flyby of Enceladus illustration (NASA) NASA's Cassini spacecraft has detected traces of organic compounds on Saturn's moon Enceladus, suggesting that the moon's composition more closely resembles that of a comet than expected. Cassini detected the organic materials, including methane, propane, acetylene, and formaldehyde, when it flew very close to the moon on March 12, coming as close as 50 kilometers to the surface and passing through tenuous plumes of material created by geysers. The mix of materials detected by Cassini resembles the primordial compounds found in comets, a finding that took scientists by surprise. The organic materials, water, and heat source that powers the geysers provide all the key ingredients needed for life, although liquid water has yet to be directly detected below the moon's icy surface.
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