Icy Worlds

Astrobiology Review: A Review on Hypothesized Metabolic Pathways on Europa and Enceladus: Space-Flight Detection Considerations

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
Life
September 5, 2023
Filed under , , , , , ,
Astrobiology Review: A Review on Hypothesized Metabolic Pathways on Europa and Enceladus: Space-Flight Detection Considerations
Types of research discussed here for hypothesized metabolism.
Life

Enceladus and Europa, icy moons of Saturn and Jupiter, respectively, are believed to be habitable with liquid water oceans and therefore are of interest for future life detection missions and mission concepts.

With the limited data from missions to these moons, many studies have sought to better constrain these conditions. With these constraints, researchers have, based on modeling and experimental studies, hypothesized a number of possible metabolisms that could exist on Europa and Enceladus if these worlds host life. The most often hypothesized metabolisms are methanogenesis for Enceladus and methane oxidation/sulfate reduction on Europa.

Here, we outline, review, and compare the best estimated conditions of each moonโ€™s ocean. We then discuss the hypothetical metabolisms that have been suggested to be present on these moons, based on laboratory studies and Earth analogs. We also detail different detection methods that could be used to detect these hypothetical metabolic reactions and make recommendations for future research and considerations for future missions.

Jessica M. Weber, Theresa C. Marlin, Medha Prakash, Bronwyn L. Teece, Katherine Dzurilla and Laura M. Barge

Life 2023, 13(8), 1726; DOI: 10.3390/life13081726
Astrobiology Review: A Review on Hypothesized Metabolic Pathways on Europa and Enceladus: Space-Flight Detection Considerations, Life (open access)

Astrobiology

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Naโ€™Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) ๐Ÿ––๐Ÿป