Scientists are excited by something they've found on Saturn's intriguing moon.
Scientists have just made a huge discovery on Saturn’s moon Titan that could change their understanding of the origins of life in the universe.
They found a trail of chemicals on the moon that suggests the sort of conditions that could precede the emergence of life, also known as prebiotic conditions, according to a Cornell University statement.
Scientists think that a chemical evolution enabled life on Earth as water and oxygen wasn’t always abundant. Researchers have been trying to understand these prebiotic conditions, and they think that hydrogen cyanide might be the key — something that Titan produces when sunlight strikes its nitrogen and methan-rich atmosphere.
Although Titan looks a lot different than Earth, that doesn’t mean it can’t have conditions that are habitable enough for life to form. Life doesn’t necessarily have to follow the exact blueprint that it did on Earth.
Scientists know that hydrogen cyanide reacts with itself or other molecules and can form long polymer chains like polyimine. Polyimine chains can absorb energy from the sun and possible lead to life.
“Polyimine can exist as different structures, and they may be able to accomplish remarkable things at low temperatures, especially under Titan’s conditions,” said Martin Rahm, postdoctoral researcher in chemistry and lead author of the new study, in the statement.
“We need to continue to examine this, to understand how the chemistry evolves over time. We see this as a preparation for further exploration,” said Rahm. “If future observations could show there is prebiotic chemistry in a place like Titan, it would be a major breakthrough. This paper is indicating that prerequisites for processes leading to a different kind of life could exist on Titan, but this only the first step.”