Laboratory chemical experiments on Earth create conditions under which life could originate on Enceladus (satellite of Saturn) and other ice worlds.
It is believed that life forms can appear everywhere where there is water, so researchers most often focus on planets in habitable areas (the temperature is high enough for liquid water to be present). But in recent decades, scientists are finding more and more evidence that life is capable of hiding in the oceans under ice crusts.
It is believed that life on Earth appeared near hydrothermal holes, including hot springs on land and cracks near underwater volcanoes. Ice formations may also contain such formations. Enceladus is of particular interest because the Cassini apparatus recorded activity in the ocean with a temperature of 90 ° C.
Now scientists are engaged in modeling of prebiotic chemistry - chemical reactions that can lead to life. The early Earth, where life began, was different from what we see now. Therefore it is necessary to wind back time in the laboratory and look at the conditions under which it all began. But if you can do it with the Earth, then why not create an ancient model of Enceladus?
Hydrothermal iron sulfide haze precipitated in a laboratory simulation of a vent in the oceanic world, like Enceladus
Among the simulated reactions emit contact between water and rock. Some released substances in seawater are capable of forming smoke-like structures, which in terrestrial conditions lead to the appearance of life.
To mimic chemical reactions in alien worlds, researchers use “hydrothermal reactors”. These are two pressurized tanks, where one holds a simulated hydrothermal fluid and the second contains ocean water. Fluids are passed through a layer of various minerals, like synthetic volcanic rocks. Then the analysis of chemicals is carried out.
When different chemicals were added, the chimneys changed shape: they could be single hollow centers, or they could grow like chemical gardens. Primary analyzes have shown that some minerals are capable of creating small organic compounds from inorganic.
Of course, there is still no accurate data on the characteristics of the environment in which life originated. Therefore, scientists are creating modular experiments in which ingredients can later be replaced to test reactions.