Saturn’s moon Titan has two vital ingredients that could produce life

Brittany A. Roston - Jul 31, 2017, 3:05 pm CDT
Saturn’s moon Titan has two vital ingredients that could produce life

Researchers have made an exciting announcement about Saturn’s moon Titan — it may hold the key ingredients for life. The discovery was made by the Cassini spacecraft, which found two potential compounds that could lead to life. One of the compounds, vinyl cyanide, originates from Titan’s upper atmosphere, while the second compound, carbon chain anions, were found in the moon’s ionosphere.

The compounds have been detailed in two different studies, but they both offer the same hope: the potential for life on the moon, a monumental discovery coming about 400 years after Titan itself was discovered. Ample amounts of the vinyl cyanide can be found in the moon’s liquid methane oceans, and it is potentially a vital component for life to form within these freezing methane seas.

The vinyl cyanide discovery itself comes two years after researchers demonstrated how the compound could be used to shield other compounds from the freezing seas, making it possible for life to form in the absence of the liquid water seas like the ones found on Earth.

The life that could form on Titan, though, would look vastly different than the life found on our own planet, so much so that some have questioned whether it will be readily recognizable by humans. Of course, such life hasn’t yet been discovered on the moon.

Meanwhile, there’s also the negatively charged carbon molecules known as carbon chain anions. This particular compound could pave the way for organic molecules with a greater complexity to form. Such organic compounds, which are being made in part from the sunlight reaching the moon, are responsible for the haze researchers have identified on the moon. To put it simply, this compound is something like a missing link between simple molecules and complex compounds leading to life.

SOURCE: ScienceMag, The Astrophysical Journal Letters

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