Is Saturn's Moon Titan Capable of Possessing Organic Life?
Huygens' Close-Up Photograph of Titan
Orbiting around Saturn is a well-sized moon called Titan. What makes this moon such a special specimen when considering terrestrial bodies in our solar system which may be capable of harboring organic lifeforms? Titan has giant lakes on her surface and there is even rain on the planet! The lakes and rain are composed of liquid methane instead of liquid water, but Titan hasn't lost candidacy yet! It's been suggested that life on our planet may just be an example of complex chemistry; that is to state, maybe liquid water isn't the only liquid chemical that could potentially aid in the foundation of organic life!
Cassini's Views of Titan
Delving Right In
First of all, let's begin by stating just how weird Titan is in our nearby galactic neighborhood. According to Rizk (2006), Titan may just be the "strangest" of Saturn's moons! Considering the uniqueness of Earth which only go alongside her great successes, Titan's interesting and different qualities may be a very good thing to note in our search for life! Life on Earth relies heavily on a large celestial body of solids as well as a relatively thick atmosphere. Titan is Saturn's biggest moon and it has a "thick nitrogen atmosphere" (Rizk, 2006). If there is life elsewhere in our solar system, then Titan seems like a prime candidate indeed!
One of Titan's Multiple Lakes
All of this might mean that, even when considering unicellular life; Titan may be a more likely candidate than Mars. Mars is often said to have some atmosphere; but, that atmosphere would be very thin. This is one of the reasons that space agencies have resisted the urge to send astronauts to the red planet right away. Also, Mars doesn't seem to possess any large bodies of fluid like Titan does. Even if it does snow on Mars, rain may be seldom to nonexistent there. On Titan, liquid methane falls from the sky. In fact, Rizk (2006) notes that methane on Titan exists not only in its liquidic state on Titan - but, also in its gaseous and solidic states too! This is just like water on Earth. On our home planet, water exists as a solid (e.g. ice), as a gas (e.g. clouds), and even as a liquid (e.g. oceans).
Image of Clouds on Titan
Something else that Titan has in common with Earth is the noted absence of obvious craters on her surface. Rizk (2006) makes mention that this is not the norm for celestial bodies in our neck of the woods. We know that Earth's strikingly unique qualities could be what has permitted her to be the birthplace for living organisms. Is it not then possible that Titan's shared unique qualities could allow her to hold organic life too? We're not sure, but it seems possible! My readers should take notice of one of the limitations of modern astronomy; we lack close up images of most of the planets and moons in our solar system! Just because we have yet to discover life on another world doesn't mean that it isn't out there! A lot of very hard work needs to be continued and accomplished before we can even begin to be sure of the possession or lack of life on other bodies nearby.
Saturn Chilling Being Her Moon Titan
Super Similar to Earth?
What else does Titan have in common with Earth? Rizk (2006) points out that Titan's ice/ammonia volcanoes give evidence to some kind of energy in Titan's inner body, and Talcott (2010) informs us that Titan's surface environment actually changes with her seasons. The fact that Titan's is seemingly very geologically active is a very interesting feature. Why is this interesting? Mars along with many of the close planetary satellites are thought to be relatively dead in a geological sense. Perhaps things like tectonic activity, inner energies like our Earth's core, and active changes in weather might all be items which help in the development of life. Jupiter's moon Io does have volcanoes; but, she also has little atmosphere. The planet Mercury is tectonically active (Loff, 2017); but, there is no actively changing weather patterns on the scorched rock. Titan could have life. We'll just have to work hard and then see!
Color Enhanced Photograph of Titan's Surface
So, what do you all think? Could Titan really harbor life? Do you believe somewhere else in our solar system could be a better candidate for cradling lifeforms? Is there anything in this article that I missed!? Please let me know all of your thoughts and feelings in the comments below!
Loff, Sarah. (2017). Tectonically Active Planet Mercury. Retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/tectonically-active-planet-mercury
Rizk, Bashar. (2006). Saturn's TITAN REVEALS earthlike surprises. Astronomy, 34(5), 40-45.
Talcott, Richard. (2010). Seasons change on Saturn's Titan. Astronomy, 38(2), 20.
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© 2017 Alexander James Guckenberger