Could Saturn's Moon Titan Support Life? Scientists Just Found New Evidence

Could Saturn's Moon Titan Support Life? Scientists Just Found New Evidence
Source: NASA
Source: NASA

Researchers just found one more reason to send a probe to Saturn's moon Titan ASAP.

A new study has found evidence of a chemical trail indicating some of the precursors for life might exist on Titan. 

Titan was already on NASA's shortlist of places in our solar system that could support life. For one, it's the only known body in the solar system other than Earth that has liquid on its surface. But instead of water like Earth, Titan has pools and streams of liquid methane. 

Liquid methane on Titan
Source: NASA/JPL/USGS

This new research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, focused on Titan's atmosphere. The moon has a yellowish atmosphere full of nitrogen and methane, which react with sunlight to create hydrogen cyanide. Hydrogen cyanide is important for life: It's an organic chemical that can make a polymer called polyimine, which can help jumpstart life, according to the research.

"Polyimine can exist as different structures, and they may be able to accomplish remarkable things at low temperatures, especially under Titan's conditions," Martin Rahm, lead author on the new research, said in a statement.

Researchers need to conduct more studies and observations to figure out exactly what's happening, chemically, on Titan. One way to do that is to send a probe capable of sailing the moon's methane seas.

"If future observations could show there is prebiotic chemistry in a place like Titan, it would be a major breakthrough," Rahm said in the statement. "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."

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