Somewhere about 1 billion kilometers from Earth lies the natural satellite that may harbor life no human has ever seen before.
Titan, the sixth moon from the ringed gas giant Saturn, could be the best place to look for alien life, the new research published at the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences is indicating.
For years, scientists have been looking for new ways to interpret life. Thinking outside of the box–the typical life came from water–scientists today suggest that life too could flourish on not-so-Earth-like environment, for instance, Titan.
With temperature of about -290 degrees Fahrenheit (or -179 degrees Celsius), Titan is not your usual contender in the category of worlds that may support alien life, but researchers at the Cornell University say that they have uncovered “a chemical trail” which suggests that prebiotic conditions may exist there.
Courtesy of the Cassini and Huygens missions that brought massive amount of data to our planet, the team headed by Martin Rahm, a postdoctoral researcher in chemistry, has found a possible path leading to finding the first sign of life in an alien world. He explained in a press release that their new paper is the “starting point” of the hunt as they continue to explore traces of prebiotic chemistry on places other than Earth.
Although it consists mostly of methane and nitrogen, compared to Earth’s Nitrogen and Oxygen combo, Titan itself is a world with terrains similar to our home world. It has lakes, rivers and seas though they’re filled with liquid ethane and methane and not water; and its dense atmosphere that scientists call the yellow haze, is brimming with nitrogen and methane. When the sunlight hits Titan’s atmosphere, the reaction produces hydrogen cyanide which, according to Rahm and the team, is a possible prebiotic chemical key.
“We need to continue to examine this, to understand how the chemistry evolves over time. We see this as a preparation for further exploration,” Rahm said. “If future observations could show there is prebiotic chemistry in a place like Titan, it would be a major breakthrough.”
He added that if future observations could show that there’s prebiotic chemistry in a world full of methane, Rahm said that it would be a “major breakthrough”–which I think could open more doors for future space missions that will look for signs of life in other non-Earth-like worlds.
Titan’s largest moon is just one of the many worlds in the outer Solar System that is filed by scientists under the “potential habitable worlds.” Joining Titan in the list are Jupiter’s Europa and Ganymede moons, and another moon at Saturn’s bailiwick, Enceladus, the eight closest from the ringed planet.
More information at the Eurekalert.