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Space & Astronomy

What would life on Titan be like ?

By T.K. Randall
March 1, 2015 · Comment icon 6 comments



The Huygens probe parachuted down on to Titan in 2005. Image Credit: NASA
Scientists have come up with a concept for a life form that could survive on Saturn's moon Titan.
Titan is a place that on the outset appears to possess many things that seem uncannily familiar - oceans, rivers, snow-capped mountains and even an active weather system.

Take a closer look however and it soon becomes apparent that Titan couldn't be more alien. Its rivers and oceans aren't filled with liquid water but with an exotic form of liquid hydrocarbons while its snow-capped peaks are actually dusted with a coating of methane.

To determine what type of life forms could potentially thrive in such a hellish environment, scientists left behind all possible preconceptions about life as we know it here on Earth and went back to the drawing board. What they came up with was a concept for methane-based oxygen-free cells that, being comprised of organic nitrogen compounds, could theoretically thrive in the extreme cold.
"We're not biologists, and we're not astronomers, but we had the right tools," said Professor Paulette Clancy of Cornell University. "Perhaps it helped, because we didn't come in with any preconceptions about what should be in a membrane and what shouldn't. "

"We just worked with the compounds that we knew were there and asked, 'If this was your palette, what can you make out of that?'"

The team's next step will be to attempt to demonstrate how the alien cells would behave in a methane environment while also looking at how they might reproduce in an oxygen environment.

"Ours is the first concrete blueprint of life not as we know it," said grad student James Stevenson.

Source: Telegraph | Comments (6)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Nnicolette 8 years ago
I dont understand why they are focused on making up imaginary creatures. Sure you need an idea what to look for but wouldnt it be a better use of time to assemble a plan to at least go look?
Comment icon #2 Posted by bubblykiss 8 years ago
Better than life in Titans. I mean Zeus's siblings grew to adulthood inside of Cronus's stomach. And that must have been a horrible way to spend your awkward teen years, tumbling around dad's belly and constantly bumping into your siblings.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Sundew 8 years ago
I dont understand why they are focused on making up imaginary creatures. Sure you need an idea what to look for but wouldnt it be a better use of time to assemble a plan to at least go look? There is hard science, things which can be tested, repeated, verified, and falsified and then there is theoretical science. Theoretical science seems often to include assumptions, wishful thinking, prejudice and on occasion monetary gain. I realize of course that many a hard science started with theories, but other times these theories seem to take on a life of their own, become political and so forth. I h... [More]
Comment icon #4 Posted by Athena1979 8 years ago
I would like to pose this question but first with this understanding: I love science fiction and fantasy. I enjoy the idea of looking up at a dark sky full of tiny diamonds and wonder if there is someone else far above me looking into the same dark canvas of tiny diamonds, too. I get this. But...why are we SO interested in finding life? Shouldn't we be looking for valuable resources that our neighbor planets have that could be useful to earth? Having a valuable mineral or resource on another planet could begin funding from a corporation looking to make a profit, which then leads to technologic... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by Athena1979 8 years ago
(also...money and greed also lead to the advancement of corruption, destruction, and all sorts of foul things. I get this too) I'm just saying that the chances of life are small...so let's look for something that's more realistic...like minerals and such. You find a meterorite flying by that is made entirely of gold...this could mean alot to development of technology and a sudden decrease in the value of gold on earth.
Comment icon #6 Posted by cyclopes500 8 years ago
It would surprise me greatly if some sort of primitive life evolved solely on Titan. It's a super cold environment. However it evolving on Saturn, which deep down is a hell of a lot warmer, and then migrating upwards and eventually across to Titan on a bit of rock from the ring system that I can picture. It'd have to evolve to go upwards where its colder and the pressure is lower, but once in the moon's thick atmosphere I can see it landing and feeling more than at home. Even if it doesn't exist now it will do one day because man will create it.


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