Jonathan Lunine with Cornell University and a participant in the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and Saturn’s moon Titan presented new evidence that life could exist or be in the process of forming on Titan at the Sept. 12, 2013, session of the annual Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society.
Lunine based his proposition on the data collected by the Cassini-Huygens mission that show Titan’s atmosphere has ethane, acetylene, hydrogen cyanide, cyanoacetylene, methane, and nitrogen. These compounds are similar to the composition of the early atmosphere of Earth when life first began about 3.5 billion years ago.
The recent discovery of liquid water deep in the surface of Titan as well as the discovery of conditions that indicate Titan’s sea floor has hydrothermal vents similar to those on Earth pose a compelling parallel to the development of life on Titan in a similar manner that life developed on Earth.
Many scientists consider life on Earth first developed around hydrothermal vents because the necessities of heat, light, and chemicals to form the building blocks of life were all present.
Titan has about one hundredth of the exposure to light from the Sun as Earth does and the temperatures on the surface are extremely cold. These facts do not indicate that some form of life may be existent or developing deeper in the oceans of Titan or beneath the surface of Titan.