Saturn’s hazy moon: Could there be life on Titan?
Methane lakes, an orangey atmosphere and a ‘creme brulee-like’ surface make Titan – the largest of Saturn’s moons – sound almost inviting.
The European probe named Huygens reached Titan aboard NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in January of 2005. It has been sending signals Earthward ever since.
What’s so remarkable about Titan is its resemblance to Earth. The main differences are that Titan is much colder and has vast bodies of liquid methane instead of water.
The fact is that if Titan were not so cold, it would probably be bursting with life, so plentiful are its supplies of organic raw materials, scientists suggest. The moon is, in effect, a chilled leftover from the formation of the early solar system.
Cassini is still zipping around Saturn’s moons, recently passing by both Titan and Enceladus, taking pictures and scanning with radar.
From an msnbc report:
Scientists will analyze the data to get a clearer understanding of Titan’s internal structure, and to learn whether the moon has a liquid ocean beneath its surface. The composite infrared spectrometer will also use its southernmost pass to collect thermal data to fill out its temperature map of the smoggy moon.
The possibility of underground oceans heated by a molten core has sparked scientific interest and prompted questions about the likelihood of life on Titan. A return mission could provide answers.
Read more in the Guardian article ‘Welcome to a new Eden – two billion miles from Earth’
by Graham Land