Titan can present to us what we do not know about life

Titan can present to us what we do not know about life

Conditions on Saturn’s largest moon can make Titan the best place in our solar system to test ideas about the diversity of life in space.

Next month, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will make its 126th and final passage around Titan, giving scientists an excellent picture of the geologically active world with liquid hydrocarbon lakes, complex atmospheric chemistry, and probably even a salty ocean looted under an ice crust.

But the main question remains unanswered: if the Titan (similar to the earth) life?

“The combination of organic matter and liquid in the form of water in the subterranean ocean and methane / ethane in surface lakes and seas hints that Titan might be the perfect place to test ideas about the habitat of prebiotic chemistry and the omnipresence of the diversity of life in the universe,” wrote Sara Hearst, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, in an article that will soon be published in the Journal of Geographical Studies.

The size of Titan is approximately equal to Mercury, and this is the only body in the Solar System (except Earth), whose thick atmosphere allows stable liquid reservoirs to exist. But instead of lake water, the moon, feeding on hydrocarbon rains, is filled with liquid methane and ethane-organic molecules, which can be the building blocks for life.

Titan is the largest of 53 Saturn's satellites. It contains all the basic vital elements: hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur and phosphorus. Moreover, he has more hydrocarbon reserves than the total amount on Earth. Scientists believe that the constant haze of the moon is analogous to the prebiotic organic chemical environment of the early Earth. So it was written in the NASA report in 2015.

“Titan makes it possible to search for life signatures in many types of systems — habitual life on a water base, as well as a biological system that could form with hydrocarbons as a solvent,” said planetary scientist Elizabeth Skull from the Laboratory of Applied Physics at John Hopkins University in Laurel, Maryland. .

Titanium can be a place for really interesting experiments on organic chemistry with alternative structures. So says planetary scientist Britney Schmidt.

“This is a fantastic object, because you have a sedimentary process, like on Earth, but ice is involved,” she said. - “Organic in nature, but not necessarily a biogen”. The discovery of Cassini led scientists to place Titan on a growing list of planets and satellites of the solar system that could support life.

NASA's attention is more focused on Mars, but the US space agency has begun work on a mission to detect life on Jupiter’s ocean moon Europe.

“The proliferation of water worlds in our system and outside of it limits our understanding of the emergence of mortality and makes us think about the environment,” says a NASA report.

“Studying Europe and the ocean worlds, we are trying to make a revolution in science, namely, to study how biology functions beyond Earth,” astrobiologist Kevin Hand from NASA's Passenger Movement Laboratory added in Pasadena.

“We know that physics, chemistry and geology work outside of the earth,” he said. “But when it comes to the fourth fundamental element, there is still a breakthrough here.”

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