Saturn’s moon seems to be the great surprise on everyone’s mind. Well, everyone who is into astronomy at least. This large moon, actually Saturn’s largest, is a moon rich with nitrogen, carbon and hydrogen which are all elements needed to sustain living organisms on our own planet. The moon also has an ocean of water that is below the surface and many liquid methane lakes that are excellent energy sources.
Besides those, it has now been discovered that their are two more ingredients that could possibly be used to produce life – a membrane forming compound and a long chain of carbon atoms which could be the ‘life instigator’.
Sarah Horst, a professor of planetary science at Johns Hopkins University, describes it as a pre made recipe that you just need to put in the oven, but with one major difference: “But you weren’t there when they got mixed, so you don’t know what they got mixed up to do. You don’t know what will happen when you bake it.”
However, unlike baking a cake, producing a live organism isn’t quite that simple. If there is life found on Titan, it will be drastically different from everything we know. Besides being utterly freezing with the temperatures at around – 143 celsius, it also has no oxygen. This seems like a bad thing, but when you factor in the fact that Titan’s lakes contain hydrocarbons which in contact with oxygen are highly flammable, it suddenly starts being a great thing.
Regardless of that though, Horst believes that Titan is the perfect planet if we’re looking to find any life, especially life which is completely different than the one we consider familiar.
For this, there seems to be evidence piling up in recent months, one if which is the data from NASA’s vessel Cassini. It detected a strange molecule in Titan’s atmosphere which was previously seen only in comets and meteorites. It is called a carbon chain anion and seems to be the perfect catalyst for complex chemical reactions, according to a study author Ravi Desai. He explains how this anion can possibly trigger chemical reactions which may produce larger, organic molecules, which are precursor to life.