In the framework of the ITASEL project we are monitoring a
selection of comets, exoplanetary systems and Saturnian
satellites where water and prebiotic molecules may be found.
In particular we are searching for the 22 GHz (1.35 cm) water MASER line. It is a well known emission line in astrophysics since its discovery in 1968. It was detected in many interstellar clouds and for the first time in our Solar System during the impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy with Jupiter (1994) and in Comet Hyakutake (1996).
The ITASEL observations are mainly performed with the 32 meters VLBI antenna of the Medicina Radioastronomical Station in Italy.
Comets became in the last years the most important objects for bioastronomical searches as they are supposed to deliver the bricks of life allover in the planetary systems of the Galaxy.
Since the discovery of the first extrasolar planet in 1995, the search and study of these objects has become an important field of bioastronomical search. So far astronomers have detected over 1000 exoplanets outside our solar system and made remarkable progress in determining their properties.
The recent Cassini discovery of water vapour plumes ejected from the southern hemisphere of the Saturnian satellite, Enceladus, represents a unique opportunity to confirm the detectability of the water MASER emission in the Saturnian System.