Large organic molecules blasted into space from deep-sea vents on one of Saturn’s moons, show that it contains “all of the basic requirements for life as we know it”. Plumes of material from cracks in Enceladus’ icy surface were sampled by Nasa spacecraft Cassini, shortly before it plunged to its death in Saturn’s atmosphere.  A study of this data by an international team of researchers has found evidence of carbon-rich substances formed in the heart of the moon. The scientists said they were “blown away” by the discovery. “Complex organic molecules do not necessarily provide a habitable environment, but on the other hand they are a necessary precursor for life,” Dr Frank Postberg from the University of Heidelberg, who led the research, told The Independent.

“Previously it was unknown whether complex organic chemistry happens on Enceladus – and now we know.” Dr Christopher Glein, a space scientist specialising in extraterrestrial chemical oceanography, said the new findings mean the distant moon is the only body besides Earth known to “simultaneously satisfy all of the basic requirements for life as we know it”. He added: “We are, yet again, blown away by Enceladus. Previously we’d only identified the simplest organic molecules containing a few carbon atoms, but even that was very intriguing.” The new discovery is the culmination of years of data gleaned by Cassini as it flew close by Saturn’s moons, collecting information as it went.