Scientists are looking to understand the chemical keys to prebiotic conditions and believe Titan could hold the answer.
When we think of other forms of life existing in our universe we tend to think of planets being the basis for their home but new research suggests Titan, Saturn’s moon, could provide the necessary conditions despite there being no source of water.
Scientists have analyzed data of the moon’s chemical compositions collected from NASA’s Huygens and Cassini and the presence of hydrogen cyanide molecules (HCN) could be able to allow different forms of life to flourish. According to Science Alert, HCN can potentially react to form polymers that absorb an abundance of light that could provide the necessary catalyst for life.
“Polyimine can exist as different structures, and they may be able to accomplish remarkable things at low temperatures, especially under Titan’s conditions,” said lead author of the study, Martin Rahm from Cornell University. “We are used to our own conditions here on Earth. Our scientific experience is at room temperature and ambient conditions. Titan is a completely different beast.”
Titan has no water despite having deep terrains like those on Earth. The lakes and seas are instead made up of liquid methane and ethane – an environment too toxic for human life to survive but according to the research, that doesn’t mean other forms of life couldn’t.
The study is pursuing the idea that life is capable of existing in places that don’t match up to the conditions of Earth and this could be the first step in widening this idea.
“If future observations could show there is prebiotic chemistry in a place like Titan, it would be a major breakthrough,” said Rahm. “This paper is indicating that prerequisites for processes leading to a different kind of life could exist on Titan, but this [is] only the first step.”
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.