The Enceladus Deep

Our love affair with Enceladus grows deeper:

PIA18071A substantial ocean most likely exists beneath the icy surface of Saturn’s diminutive moon Enceladus, raising the possibility that primitive forms of extraterrestrial life exist in its briny depths.

The ocean lies between the moon’s rocky core and a layer of thick ice, and is estimated to be about the size of Lake Superior. That’s large for a moon that is only 310 miles (500 kilometers) in diameter and could fit within the borders of Arizona.

In our solar system, the only other moon known to have similar contact between liquid water and rock is Jupiter’s Europa. Both the rock and the water are considered to be essential for the chemistry that could, over eons, turn nonliving matter into living entities.

“The main implication of our work is that there are potentially habitable environments in our solar system that are entirely unexpected,” said Luciano Iess, an aerospace engineer at the Sapienza University of Rome and lead author on the study published Thursday in the journal Science.

(Kaufman)

The essential question is actually a matter of opinion, sort of: How important is this?

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That’s Right: Artificial Chromosome

Dan Vergano brings an astounding lede for National Geographic:

National GeographicIn a biological first, an international team has inserted a man-made chromosome into brewer’s yeast, producing a life form that thrives and successfully passes the designer genes on to its offspring.

The “synthetic” biology advance—the first synthesis of a working artificial chromosome in an organism more complex than a bacterium—opens the door wider to man-made microbes that may someday be designed to manufacture better fuels, food, and medicines.

“We can shuffle genes into these chromosomes like a deck of cards,” says Jef Boeke of the NYU Langone Medical Center’s Institute for System Genetics, who led the study reported in the journal Science.