|Posted on November 3, 2013 at 7:45 PM|
Written by Ben Shelley
Titan, the largest of Saturn’s lunar offspring, is currently at the centre of one of the largest debates in the history of astrobiology. It is the only natural satellite in the Solar System to have a dense atmosphere, and the only other object apart from Earth, which has stable bodies of surface liquid, making it the only other candidate for supporting life. Titan was discovered back in the 17th century by a Dutch astronomer, but the debate over its ability to sustain life has only just arisen since the Cassini spacecraft uncovered the moon’s surface using radiophotography from orbit. These photos, as well as other measurements from the craft, revealed numerous liquid methane lakes, cryovolcanoes and river beds; all three a tell-tale sign of life. Since then, scientists from across the world have been racing to present the first paper on potentially the most significant discovery in the history of mankind: extra-terrestrial life.
After endless analysis of the chemicals that make up Titan’s atmosphere, scientists have now uncovered evidence that alien life exists on Saturn’s moon. The first paper, published by NASA, showed that hydrogen gas that circulated through the plant’s atmosphere, disappeared at the surface. It was implied by scientists that the lack of the chemical was due to consumption by life. One of NASA’s astrobiologists, Chris McKay 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.” It has been the study of Titan’s atmosphere that has lead the research thus far, as scientists search continuously for more pieces of the puzzle that is alien life. What most scientists find so exciting about this research is the prospect of discovering life that has different building blocks to our own. Life on Titan would represent a hydro-carbon based life form rather than the water based life situated on Earth.