Scientists find 'hint of life' on Saturn's moon Titan
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Posted 04 June 2010 - 03:59 PM
Scientists have found evidence that there may be some form of life on Saturn's biggest moon Titan. They have discovered clues that might show that microscopic aliens are breathing in Titan's atmosphere and feeding on fuel at the surface. Data from Nasa's Cassini probe has analysed the complex chemistry on the surface of Titan - the only moon known to have a dense atmosphere. Its surface is covered with mountains, lakes and rivers which has led astronomers to call it the most Earth-like world in the solar system.
Organic chemicals had already been detected on the 3,200-mile wide moon. But the liquid on Titan methane, rather than water, and scientists expect life there to be methane-based. The startling discoveries, made using an orbiting spacecraft, are revealed by two separate teams reporting in two science publications, Icarus and the Journal of Geophysical Research. The paper in Icarus shows that hydrogen gas flowing down through Titan's atmosphere mysteriously disappears at the surface, suggesting it could be being breathed by alien bugs. The second paper reports that there is a lack of the chemical acetylene on the surface, leading scientists to believe that it may be being consumed once it reaches Titan.
Scientists had expected sunlight interacting with chemicals in the atmosphere to produce acetylene that falls down to coat Titan. But Cassini detected no acetylene on the surface. Experts caution that there could be other explanations for the results observed.
But taken together, they fulfill two important conditions necessary for methane-based life to exist. Nasa astrobiologist Chris McKay, of California, who drew up the list of conditions, said: '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.
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