Titan’s hydrocarbon lakes, seen here in radar images, boast life-friendly chemistry (Image: NASA/JPL)
23 November 2009 by David Shiga
Saturn’s frigid moon Titan may be friendlier to life than previously thought. New calculations suggest Titan’s hydrocarbon lakes are loaded with acetylene, a chemical some scientists say could serve as food for cold-resistant organisms.
At about -180 °Celsius, Titan’s surface is far too cold for liquid water. But two pairs of scientists proposed in 2005 that alien organisms might live instead in bodies of liquid hydrocarbons on the frigid moon. They suggested such organisms could eat acetylene that falls to the surface after forming in the atmosphere, combining it with hydrogen to gain energy.
Since then, Cassini has spotted dozens of lakes on Titan’s surface, thought to be made of a mixture of liquid ethane and methane. But since no probe has directly sampled them, no one knows how much acetylene they might contain.
An estimate made in 1989 suggested bodies of liquid hydrocarbons on Titan would contain a few parts in 10,000 of acetylene.
But an updated estimate based on data from the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn now suggests the lakes contain much more food for any hungry alien life-forms that might be present. The new calculations were made by a team of scientists led by Daniel Cordier of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Renne, France.
Data from the Cassini spacecraft and the Huygens probe….
We highly reccommend New Scientist magazine . Click on the link for the complete article.