Signs of life found on Saturn moon hint aliens may be hidden beneath icy surface

Signs of life have been found on Saturn's icy moon Enceladus – suggesting aliens live in salty oceans under its icy surface.

A new study said levels of methane gas consistent with the presence of microbes are present beneath the -198C crust.

This suggests tiny ETs could live in a salty subsurface ocean on the 310-mile wide space rock, the Sun reports.

The existence of the natural gas – which is let out when animals on Earth fart – could also be down to a chemical process we don't yet understand.

Enceladus is Saturn's sixth-largest moon and covered by fresh and clean ice, making it highly reflective and extremely cold.

In 2014, Nasa found evidence to suggest there was a large subsurface ocean of liquid water on Enceladus.

Four years later scientists discovered complex macromolecular organics on the moon's jet plumes – sparking hopes to find evidence of alien life beneath its icy surface.

The new study comes after Nasa, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency sent a space probe called Cassini to dive through giant plumes of water that sometimes burst through Enceladus's icy crust.

Large amounts of methane were detected as well as other molecules like dihydrogen and carbon dioxide leading researchers to believe the seafloor could have hydrothermal vents similar to ones found on Earth.

On Earth, hydrothermal vents are surrounded by microbes that consume dihydrogen and carbon dioxide and produce methane.

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So the research team ran models to see what could be the most likely explanation for the large amounts of methane.

They planned out several different scenarios in which microbes would and wouldn't survive and compared them to the results the Cassini probe detected.

Régis Ferrière, co-lead study author, said: "In summary, not only could we evaluate whether Cassini's observations are compatible with an environment habitable for life, but we could also make quantitative predictions about observations to be expected, should methanogenesis (by microbes) actually occur at Enceladus' seafloor.

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"Obviously, we are not concluding that life exists in Enceladus' ocean.

"Rather, we wanted to understand how likely it would be that Enceladus' hydrothermal vents could be habitable to Earthlike microorganisms.

"Very likely, the Cassini data tell us, according to our models. And biological methanogenesis appears to be compatible with the data."

Astronomers will continue to research Saturn's Enceladus moon to find out more.

The full study has been published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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