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Saturn Moon, Titan, Can Support Life, Scientists Claim

First Posted: Jul 07, 2016 05:38 AM EDT
Cassini Spacecraft Reveals Titan Surface Details
Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, could support a very different kind of life, according to a new study.


(Photo : NASA via Getty Images)

Saturn's biggest moon, Titan, remains to be one of the most hopeful spots to find alien life within the Solar System. Scientists claim that the condition on Titan's surface has the kind of chemistry for life to emerge, despite not having water.

According to Gizmodo, Saturn's moon Titan is larger than Mercury.  It is known as the largest of the over 60 moons Saturn have. Titan's surface is shaped by rivers, lakes, and rainfall. However, within Saturn's rings an ocean of methane flows. This methane cycle closely resembles Earth's water cycle, which can make Titan a potential location for alien life to emerge.

The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, on July 4th, Martin Rahm, postdoctoral researcher in chemistry and lead author of the new study, "Polymorphism and Electronic Structure of Polyimine and Its Potential Significance for Prebiotic Chemistry on Titan" said they consider the paper a starting point as they are in search for prebiotic chemistry in different locations other than Earth.

Using computer models, researchers from Cornell University has found that a chemical on Titan's surface known as hydrogen cyanide could actually make it inhabitable by forming long chains or polymers, one of which is called polyimine.  Despite Titan's cold atmosphere, this chemical can stimulate chemical reactions and may possibly absorb the sun's energy through the moon's thick clouds, space.com reported.

"Polyimine can exist as different structures, and they may be able to accomplish remarkable things at low temperatures, especially under Titan's conditions," said Rahm, who works in the lab of Roald Hoffmann, winner of the 1981 Nobel Prize in chemistry and Cornell's Frank H.T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters Emeritus. Rahm and the paper's other scientists consulted with Hoffmann on this work.

In a press release, Rahm also said that they need to continue to analyze the findings to be able to understand how the chemistry will evolve over time. He also said that this will be a time for them to prepare to be able to explore further. "If future observations could show there is prebiotic chemistry in a place like Titan, it would be a major breakthrough. This paper is indicating that prerequisites for processes leading to a different kind of life could exist on Titan, but this only the first step," he added.

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