Strange Discovery on Titan Leads to Speculation of Alien Life
By Charles Q. Choi | Space.com
New findings have roused a great deal of hoopla over the possibility of life on Saturnís moon Titan, which some news reports have further hyped up as hints of extraterrestrials.
However, scientists also caution that aliens might have nothing to do with these findings.
All this excitement is rooted in analyses of chemical data returned by NASAís Cassini spacecraft. One study suggested that hydrogen was flowing down through Titanís atmosphere and disappearing at the surface. Astrobiologist Chris McKay at NASA Ames Research Center speculated this could be a tantalizing hint that hydrogen is getting consumed by life.
"Itís the obvious gas for life to consume on Titan, similar to the way we consume oxygen on Earth," McKay said.
Another study investigating hydrocarbons on Titanís surface found a lack of acetylene, a compound that could be consumed as food by life that relies on liquid methane instead of liquid water to live.
"If these signs do turn out to be a sign of life, it would be doubly exciting because it would represent a second form of life independent from water-based life on Earth," McKay said.
However, NASA scientists caution that aliens might not be involved at all.
"Scientific conservatism suggests that a biological explanation should be the last choice after all non-biological explanations are addressed," said Mark Allen, principal investigator with the NASA Astrobiology Institute Titan team. "We have a lot of work to do to rule out possible non-biological explanations. It is more likely that a chemical process, without biology, can explain these results."
"Both results are still preliminary," McKay told SPACE.com.
To date, methane-based life forms are only speculative, with McKay proposing a set of conditions necessary for these kinds of organisms on Titan in 2005. Scientists have not yet detected this form of life anywhere, although there are liquid-water-based microbes on Earth that thrive on methane or produce it as a waste product.
On Titan, where temperatures are around minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 179 degrees Celsius), any organisms would have to use a substance that is liquid as its medium for living processes. Water itself cannot do, because it is frozen solid on Titanís surface. The list of liquid candidates is very short -- liquid methane and related molecules such as ethane. Previous studies have found Titan to have lakes of liquid methane.
The dearth of hydrogen Cassini detected is consistent with conditions that could produce methane-based life, but do not conclusively prove its existence, cautioned researcher Darrell Strobel, a Cassini interdisciplinary scientist based at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., who authored the paper on hydrogen appearing online in the journal Icarus.
Strobel looked at densities of hydrogen in different parts of the atmosphere and the surface. Previous models from scientists had predicted that hydrogen molecules, a byproduct of ultraviolet sunlight breaking apart acetylene and methane molecules in the upper atmosphere, should be distributed fairly evenly throughout the atmospheric layers.
Strobelís computer simulations suggest a hydrogen flow down to the surface at a rate of about 10,000 trillion trillion molecules per second.
"Itís as if you have a hose and youíre squirting hydrogen onto the ground, but itís disappearing," Strobel said. "I didnít expect this result, because molecular hydrogen is extremely chemically inert in the atmosphere, very light and buoyant. It should ífloatí to the top of the atmosphere and escape."
Strobel said it is not likely that hydrogen is being stored in a cave or underground space on Titan. An unknown mineral could be acting as a catalyst on Titanís surface to help convert hydrogen molecules and acetylene back to methane.
Although Allen commended Strobel, he noted "a more sophisticated model might be needed to look into what the flow of hydrogen is."
Scientists had expected the sunís interactions with chemicals in the atmosphere to produce acetylene that falls down to coat the Titan surface. But Cassini mapped hydrocarbons on Titanís surface, it detected no acetylene on the surface, findings appearing online in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
Instead of alien life on Titan, Allen said one possibility is that sunlight or cosmic rays are transforming the acetylene in icy aerosols in the atmosphere into more complex molecules that would fall to the ground with no acetylene signature.
In addition, Cassini detected an absence of water ice on the Titan surface, but loads of benzene and another as-yet-unidentified material, which appears to be an organic compound. The researchers that a film of organic compounds are covering the water ice that makes up Titanís bedrock. This layer of hydrocarbons is at least a few millimeters to centimeters thick, but possibly much deeper in some places.
"Titanís atmospheric chemistry is cranking out organic compounds that rain down on the surface so fast that even as streams of liquid methane and ethane at the surface wash the organics off, the ice gets quickly covered again," said Cassini team scientist Roger Clark based at the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver. "All that implies Titan is a dynamic place where organic chemistry is happening now."
Speculation íJumping the Guní
All this speculation "is jumping the gun, in my opinion," Allen said.
"Typically in the search for the existence of life, one looks for the presence of evidence -- say, the methane seen in the atmosphere of Mars, which canít be made by normal photochemical processes," Allen added. "Here weíre talking about absence of evidence rather than presence of evidence -- missing hydrogen and acetylene -- and often times there are many non-life processes that can explain why things are missing."
These findings are "still a long way from evidence of life," McKay said. "But it could be interesting."
Article from: Space.com
Video from: YouTube.com
Also tune into:
Richard C. Hoagland - Phobos an Ancient Alien Spaceship, Mars, NASA & Disclosure
Richard C. Hoagland - The Shemsu Hor (Sons of Horus), Ancient Cosmic War, Space Rituals & The Moon
Graham Hancock - Entangled, Supernatural, Shamanism & The Origins of Consciousness
Steven Greer - ET: Friend or Enemy? Disclosure & Free Energy
Joseph P Farrell - Cosmic War, Interplanetary Warfare & Mesopotamian Mythology
Walter Cruttenden - Lost Star of Myth and Time, Rise and Fall of Civilization and Consciousness
Wallace Thornhill - The Electric Universe
Seasons Discovered on Neptuneís Moon Triton
Moonís Water Comes in Three Flavors, Scientists Say
Google Liquid Galaxy Machine Sends Users on Immersive Tour of Earth, Moon, and Mars
Planet Triple Play: Saturn, Mars and Venus Appear Together
Can Planet X Nibiru Support Life? (Video)
Scientists discover Earth-like, water-rich planet: study
NASA: Evidence of life on Mars
Earth Microbes May Contaminate the Search for Life on Mars
Aliens íhijackí Nasaís Voyager 2 spacecraft, claims expert
Kuiper Belt Aliens and the 4th Reich - Stewart Swerdlow (Video)
Donít talk to aliens, warns Stephen Hawking
Microbes Could Travel from Venus to Earth
Mars rover finds signs of microbial life
The Hunt for Extraterrestrial Life Gets Weird
Latest News from our Front Page
'Whiteness is terror': Black professor says white people 'conditioned' to commit mass murder
A former professor at the University of Memphis used her Twitter account ‚Äď promoted at the time by the university‚Äôs website ‚Äď to make the claim that the Charleston church gunman was not mentally ill, but just acting the way white people are ‚Äúconditioned‚ÄĚ to act.
Assistant professor of sociology Zandria Robinson took to social media to try to make the ...
Norwegian, Danish ships rescue nearly 1,000 migrants
Copenhagen Denmark (AP) ‚ÄĒ Ships from Norway and Denmark have picked up nearly 1,000 migrants from small boats off the coast of Libya in the past 24 hours.
Svein Kvalavaag, the captain of the Norwegian Siem Pilot vessel, said on Monday he picked up 671 from two wooden boats north of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Late Monday night, it was asked ...
The Muslims are coming: Quick, hide the miniskirts
What happens when two opposing cultures meet up, one based on permissive Western values and the other on repressive Islamic doctrine?
If the latest news out of Germany is any indication, the latter wins.
Earlier this month, 200 Syrian refugees arrived in Pocking, Bavaria, and the local school system set up an emergency shelter right next to the gym of Wilhelm-Diess-Gymnasium, Die ...
UK Police Tell Subjects Not to Harm Their Attackers, Get a Rape Alarm
The latest dispatch from the United Kingdom’s ongoing campaign to eliminate all forms of armed self-defense seems too incredible to be true. Unfortunately, after tracking down the origin of a publicly distributed statement regarding self-defense products on the country’s “Ask the Police” website, we can confirm that British subjects continue to live at the mercy of their potential attackers. Even ...
Activists Plan to Burn American Flags in New York City Ahead of Fourth of July
Burning the flag in Charleston, South Carolina on June 22, 2015
A group calling for the immediate disarmament of the New York Police Department plans to burn American flags in a Brooklyn park on Wednesday, just days before the Fourth of July holiday.
“Disarm NYPD” announced the “Burn the American Flags” event on Facebook, inviting individuals to join the organization at Fort ...
|More News » |