The Telegraph reports that NASA has discovered a dense atmosphere surrounding Titan, a moon of Saturn. “They suggest that life forms may have been breathing in the planet’s atmosphere and also feeding on its surface’s fuel.” Titan is too cold to support liquid water.
Chris McKay, an astrobiologist at Nasa Ames Research Centre, at Moffett Field, California who led the research, said: “We suggested hydrogen consumption because it’s the obvious gas for life to consume on Titan, similar to the way we consume oxygen on Earth.
“If these signs do turn out to be a sign of life, it would be doubly exciting because it would represent a second form of life independent from water-based life on Earth.”
Telegraph: Titan: Nasa scientists discover evidence ‘that alien life exists on Saturn’s moon’
Shhh, no one tell Stephen Hawking.
June 13, 2010 at 6:36 am
Not to be pedantic, but isn’t the possibility (as opposed to the discovery, which would be worth talking about) of life on Titan “old news”? Heck, in sci-fi they’ve talked about for years too…
June 13, 2010 at 4:42 pm
I believe the new discovery, which lends support to the hypothesis of life on Titan, is how dense the atmosphere is.
June 21, 2010 at 5:55 am
Actually the new discovery isn’t the density of the atmosphere, but its chemistry near the surface. You’ll find a concise “horse’s mouth” explanation by Chris McKay, one of the scientists involved, at the CISCOP website http://www.ciclops.org/news/making_sense.php?id=6431&js=1
Necromancer is right – there has been talk about life of Titan for some time. Scientists have considered questions such as what life there might use as an energy source. The answer they came up with (several years ago) was hydrogen plus acetylene. And Chris McKay argued, years ago, that organisms might measurably affect levels of those two substances. The new discovery is that some process does in fact seem to be removing (or consuming) both hydrogen and acetylene from the part of the atmosphere near the surface. Which is consistent with the hypothesis of life, but still doesn’t prove it.
June 21, 2010 at 6:07 pm
Thanks Colin, very informative.
June 21, 2010 at 10:44 pm
One thing I got wrong tho… shouldn’t have written “CISCOP website”, it is actually CICLOPS, (Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations), which is nothing at all to do with CSICOP.
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