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And on other worlds...

Not to be upstaged by Mars, we now hear from Titan...

From Nasa.gov (Thanks to D Gary Grady for the link.)

What is Consuming Hydrogen and Acetylene on Titan?

PASADENA, Calif. - 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.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 8th, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC)
You should read The Eerie Silence, if you haven't already. Paul Davies spends a lot of time discussing "weird life", what it might be like and how we can look for it.
Jun. 9th, 2010 02:27 am (UTC)
Thanks - I'll go look it up. Strange life generally interests me.
Jun. 10th, 2010 05:25 am (UTC)
Hey, I took his honors seminar at ASU. He's awesome. Softspoken, brilliant, enthusiastic.
Jun. 10th, 2010 07:06 am (UTC)
Cool! I've now got the book on order from the library.
Jun. 10th, 2010 06:58 pm (UTC)
I liked the science-y parts of the book best. His take on Christianity was intelligent, but he draws the circle of redemption much too small. Also, it would be interesting to know what Islam has to say (if anything) about extraterrestrial life. I suspect the Eastern religions wouldn't even blink.

It's back at the library and on to the next person (I was second of five requests while it was still on order).
Jun. 9th, 2010 03:11 pm (UTC)
Or more likely, the absence of raw hydrogen on the surface is simply because, like on Earth, pure hydrogen is much lighter than the surrounding atmosphere and it rises up to the top of it. There cannot be pools of hydrogen on Titan as its surface temperature is -170C and hydrogen boils at -252C.

Time for another probe, a rover this time :)
Jun. 10th, 2010 03:07 am (UTC)
True enough - however as always the sexier the theory the more likely the funding... :/

I'm with you - bring on the mobile lookee-peepers!
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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