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Two potential signatures of life on Saturn's moon Titan have been found by the Cassini spacecraft. But scientists are quick to point out that non-biological chemical reactions could also be behind the observations. Titan is much too cold to support liquid water on its surface, but some scientists have suggested that exotic life-forms could live in the lakes of liquid methane or ethane that dot the moon's surface.
Infrared spectra of Titan's surface taken with the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) showed no sign of acetylene, even though ultraviolet sunlight should constantly trigger its production in the moon's thick atmosphere
Two new papers based on data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft scrutinize the complex chemical activity on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan. While non-biological chemistry offers one possible explanation, some scientists believe these chemical signatures bolster the argument for a primitive, exotic form of life or precursor to life on Titan's surface. According to one theory put forth by astrobiologists, the signatures fulfill two important conditions necessary for a hypothesized "methane-based life."
One key finding comes from a paper online now in the journal Icarus that shows hydrogen molecules flowing down through Titan's atmosphere and disappearing at the surface. Another paper online now in the Journal of Geophysical Research maps hydrocarbons on the Titan surface and finds a lack of acetylene.
This lack of acetylene is important because that chemical would likely be the best energy source for a methane-based life on Titan, said Chris McKay, an astrobiologist at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., who proposed a set of conditions necessary for this kind of methane-based life on Titan in 2005. One interpretation of the acetylene data is that the hydrocarbon is being consumed as food. But McKay said the flow of hydrogen is even more critical because all of their proposed mechanisms involved the consumption of hydrogen.
"We suggested hydrogen consumption because it's the obvious gas for life to consume on Titan, similar to the way we consume oxygen on Earth," McKay said. "If these signs do turn out to be a sign of life, it would be doubly exciting because it would represent a second form of life independent from water-based life on Earth."
To date, methane-based life forms are only hypothetical. Scientists have not yet detected this form of life anywhere, though there are liquid-water-based microbes on Earth that thrive on methane or produce it as a waste product. On Titan, where temperatures are around 90 Kelvin (minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit), a methane-based organism would have to use a substance that is liquid as its medium for living processes, but not water itself. Water is frozen solid on Titan's surface and much too cold to support life as we know it.
Electrical theorist Wallace Thornhill offers an interpretation easily contrasted with that of NASA scientists: “The radar images show flat-floored depressions with circular scalloped edges, typical of arc machining of the surface. I would compare them directly to the scalloped scarring on Jupiter’s moon Io and the flat, melted floor depressions that result. Such floors would be expected to give a dark radar return.”
The idea that Titan may have a considerable amount of low density liquids or ices came originally from calculations of its density. However, estimates of the composition of celestial bodies assume that we understand the real nature of gravity. We obviously don't. So there is no reason to assume that the gravitational constant, 'G,' is the same for all bodies in the universe, particularly when it is the most elusive "constant" to measure on Earth. So we cannot be confident about the calculated ratio of rock to ices on Titan. But the presence of methane in Titan's atmosphere seemed to require an ocean of liquid hydrocarbons as a reservoir that could provide a source of that gas lasting for the conventional age of the solar system. However, the radar image of Titan fits more closely (as we shall see) with some of those returned by the Magellan Orbiter from dry and rocky Venus. The methane puzzle has not been solved.
Originally posted by yeti101
considering the surface temp of titan is minus 180C i would pretty surprised yes.
Originally posted by links234
reply to post by mnemeth1
The Huygens probe did NOT land in a lake of methane, close, but not in it.
With a boiling point of -161 celsius it's entirely possible (and true) that lakes of methane exist in an environment of -179 celsius, as it is on Titan.
There's even been a recent photograph of sunlight reflecting off the surface of one of the lakes as photographed by Cassini.
Originally posted by NoahTheSumerian
That radio signal from Saturn - in particular, from 2:23 in, for a few seconds - sounds like a Darth-Vader type saying 'You should not go further than this'... (distorted speech obviously, but see what you think...)
I heard that alien astral beings are supposed to exist in the sixth astral density on Saturn's rings. Maybe they're giving us a warning; or stating some kind of universal directive, decreed against the human race...