WASHINGTON (TIP): Nasa scientists have discovered blocks of hydrocarbon ice in seas and lakes on Saturn’s moon Titan that may host exotic forms of life.
A new study by scientists on Nasa’s Cassini mission found that blocks of hydrocarbon ice might decorate the surface of existing lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbon on Titan. “One of the most intriguing questions about these lakes and seas is whether they might host an exotic form of life,” said Jonathan Lunine of Cornell University, coauthor of the study. “And the formation of floating hydrocarbon ice will provide an opportunity for interesting chemistry along the boundary between liquid and solid, a boundary that may have been important in the origin of terrestrial life,” Lunine said in a statement.
Titan is the only other body besides Earth in our solar system with stable bodies of liquid on its surface. While our planet’s cycle of precipitation and evaporation involves water, Titan’s cycle involves hydrocarbons like ethane and methane . Ethane and methane are organic molecules, which scientists think can be building blocks for the more complex chemistry from which life arose. Up to this point, Cassini scientists assumed that Titan lakes would not have floating ice, because solid methane is denser than liquid methane and would sink.
Aliens living on moons like Avatar’s Pandora?
Moons similar to the one depicted in Hollywood flick ‘Avatar’ may be among the most common places to find alien life, scientists believe. Astronomers came to the conclusion after identifying up to 15 new planets orbiting the life-friendly ‘habitable zones’ of stars. All are giant gaseous worlds similar in size to Jupiter or Neptune. While such planets would not themselves be suitable for Earth-like life, they could be circled by moons on which there are forests, oceans and living creatures, researchers now believe, the ‘Daily Mail’ reported. Pandora, the fictional moon in James Cameron’s movie ‘Avatar’ , is just such a world. So far only one of the 15 newly discovered objects has been confirmed as an exoplanet with 99.9% certainty. The rest still fall into the category of ‘candidate’ planets while further evidence is collected. The confirmed planet, known as PH2 b, orbits a sunlike star in the constellation Cygnus several hundred light years away.