Tuesday, August 1, 2017

SATURN’s Titan – Life (almost) always finds a way!

When it comes to alien life, maybe you want to start in ALMA and then perhaps proceed to NASA’s Cassini, check in with their scientists to see what theories they have. Of course while I’m speaking specifically Saturn’s of Titan: I’m pretty sure you can apply that to almost anywhere.


Let’s start with ALMA. What’s ALMA? The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. Where is it? Chile's Atacama desert, the driest place in the world, important because almost every night is clear of clouds and free of light-distorting moisture and that is important because it is a huge array – consisting of 66 twelve meter & seven meter in diameter radio telescopes. These are then able to observe at the millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths.


ALMA is able to provide insight regarding local stars & planets and their makeup. ALMA is an international partnership between Europe, the US, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Chile and has been operational since 2013. 


Let’s zoom out. Titan is Saturns largest moon. About the size of Mars with a nebulous atmosphere. It’s atmosphere is made up mostly of Nitrogen, a touch of organic carbon based molecules, some CH4 and C3H6. Guess what? Scientists believe those ingredients are similar to the one’s Earth had in its primordial days.


Scientists say that the conditions on Titan are not actually conducive to our way of life. Cold, as it is rather far from the Sun, with liquid Methane raining onto its solid icy surface. This forms all sorts of lakes and rivers and seas of hydrocarbons – which (it is believed) create C2H3CN/vinyl cyanide. Vinyl cyanide when linked together forms membranes which have features that resemble the lipid based cell membranes of living organisms on Earth.


So between the old data at ALMA, Cassini’s infrared scans and laboratory mock-ups of Titan’s atmosphere one arrives at the decision that Titan may be home to life of some sort.


If you have any doubts – think of our Water-bear, or as it is more formally known, the Tardigrade; an extremophile that can live though just about anything. And that’s on Earth. Who is to say that normal life, for Titan, couldn’t find a way? 


**FYI – though many say Titan is rough and as you can see by my description of it, maybe it is, it also has a lot of things that make me want to go there – the first of which being its gravity. An architect might go wild on Titan and you or I might esadily fly/glide from the 18th floor!


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