Team Headed By Pakistani Scientists Discover Life On Saturn’s Moon
As per experts, this discovery is first of its kind beyond Earth, this makes Enceladus suitable to sustain life.
Dr. Nozair Khawaja, an astrobiologist from Pakistan, and his team have discovered a key organic molecule on Enceladus, one of the 62 moons orbiting Saturn. Enceladus is 500 km in diameter.
As per experts, this discovery is first of its kind beyond Earth, this makes Enceladus suitable to sustain life. Dr. Khawaja, a researcher at Free University Berlin, is leading a team of scientists belonging from Germany and the United States (US).
Dr. Khawaja’s team was leading research on data gathered from the moon’s hydrothermal core – which was earlier assembled by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Cassini spacecraft.
“I have found small but soluble and reactive organic compound pluming from the depths [ocean] of Enceladus. The compound from the ocean of Enceladus is already a known ingredient of amino acids found in the oceans of Earth.” – said Dr. Khawaja, while talking to The Express Tribune.
Despite NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, launched in 1997, completed its research mission in 2017, scientists still haven’t studied all the research material during the spacecraft’s important mission.
“With each passing day, Enceladus is becoming one of the most habitable potential objects in the solar system to study traces of life after Earth. The next logical step should be to explore the Cassini space probe data and find more bio-signatures in the subsurface ocean of Enceladus. More space missions should be proposed and planned to explore this tiny world which is full of surprises,” – said the Pakistani astrobiologist.
Amino acids are important organic compounds and are the building blocks for almost every living creature on earth. The organic molecule found by the team of astrobiologists contains nitrogen and oxygen and has been enclosed in ice grain. It can easily be labeled as the precursor of amino acid.
Enceladus’s ocean is covered with an ice sheet, which is identical to Earth’s icy poles. The ice grain and vapors are evicted from the ocean through hydrothermal activity are released into space through small cracks on the moon’s surface.
The hero – Dr. Nozair Khawaja:
Dr. Khawaja was born in Wazirabad, a city in the Gujranwala district of Punjab. He then completed his Masters in Space Sciences and Astronomy from Punjab University. Later on, the scientist got his Ph.D. in Geosciences from Heidelberg University in Germany, he has also served as a post-doctorate scholar at the Institute of Earth Sciences at the same university.
He has done many brief studies on life beyond Earth and is a leading name in many research programs. In 2019, NASA honored him with the ‘Group Achievement Award’ for CDA or Cassini’s Cosmic Dust Analyzer. Other than that, he has also received the Horneck-Brack Award from European Astrobiology Network Association in 2018.
Dr. Khawaja’s research on key organic molecules on Enceladus has found a place in MNRAS (Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society).
~ The story was first published in Express Tribune.
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