It’s worth noting that vinyl cyanide has only been detected in Titan’s atmosphere and even then, there are only 2.8 vinyl cyanide molecules per billion. Enter vinyl cyanide, a molecule whose tails are still flexible at extremely low temperatures, requires no oxygen whatsoever, and is made up of polar/non-polar components – an ideal candidate to make up that all important cell membrane. Titan is well-known for its lakes and seas of liquid methane/ethane, such as Ligiea Mare, shown here. This image was built from radar topography with infrared colors overlaid on top. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech. A circular molecule spotted on Saturn’s moon Titan may help form precursors to life. So any place where there is liquid water on Titan’s surface or near its surface could be generating the precursors to life – biomolecules – that would be important for life as we know it, and that’s really exciting. 1. Also in 2012, an experiment on Earth simulated the conditions and components of Titan’s atmosphere, bombarded it with UV radiation (the same amount that the Sun emits) and found the components of DNA and RNA had formed, along with several amino acids. A recent paper has announced the discovery of acrylonitrile (more commonly known as Vinyl Cyanide) in Titan’s atmosphere. Thank you for signing up to TechRadar. Rough calculations, found in the very paper that announced the detection of vinyl cyanide, estimate there may be as many 10 million azotosomes per cubic centimetre of liquid found in a Titanean lake. There was a problem. But Saturn’s moon Titan – some nine times farther from the sun than Earth – is very cold, with surface temperatures hovering around -300 degrees Fahrenheit (–179 degrees Celsius). Disclaimer: The content of this website is based solely on research conducted by Life-Titan Research, unless otherwise noted. Titan, the cloudy moon of Saturn, is one of the least hostile places (for humans) in the outer solar system. According to researcher Morgan Cable at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California: When we mix tholins with liquid water, we make amino acids really fast. This world’s liquid methane and ethane rivers, lakes and seas might support some kind of life, and scientists now think they know the best places to look. Various studies have suggested that liquid methane and ethane could support life. The temperatures on Titan’s surface are too cold for liquid water, so where could it be found? The information is presented “as is” for your educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or prescribe for any medical or psychological condition, nor to prevent, treat, mitigate or cure such conditions or prevent any disease. Credit: Science Mag, A RADAR image of Ligeia Mare, taken by Cassini in 2007 while it was surveying Titan’s North Polar region. In 2014, NASA awarded a Phase II grant to the project which allows for further development of the idea and to put in place conceptual designs of the craft. If you want to know more about Titan, check out this video which covers all the basics, including how Titan formed, why it’s covered in a yellow haze and how cryovolcanoes plague it’s already unique surface. It’s premature. There is also evidence for a subsurface ocean of water, similar to those believed to lie beneath the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Source: Strategies for Detecting Biological Molecules on Titan. Sign up to get breaking news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more, plus the hottest tech deals! Receive mail from us on behalf of our trusted partners or sponsors? Although ground based telescopes and current exploratory missions have done a stellar job so far, the only way we can be 100% certain azotosomes (and potentially life) actually exist in the great lakes of Titan is to actually visit this distant moon again. The largest known craters on Titan are Sinlap (70 miles/112 kms in diameter), Selk (56 miles/90 kms) and Menrva (244 miles/392 kms). While interested in all aspects of space exploration, his primary passion is planetary science. the unique electromagnetic fingerprint of vinyl cyanide. In general, it seems that if life does exist on Titan, it must be very different from anything we know on Earth. Paul Scott Anderson has had a passion for space exploration that began when he was a child when he watched Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. Instead, the new work shows a better place to look would be within impact craters and cryovolcanoes on Titan. Shows a cross section of an azotosome membrane. The surface of Titan is covered in lakes of hydrocarbons which are toxic to life … Countless images of lakes and seas have been returned from the Cassini mission, along with clear signs of valleys and rivers. However, thanks to a surface temperature of -179.5°C (-291.1°F), all water on Titan’s surface is frozen rock solid. A large, fairly young crater on Titan, about 25 miles (40 km) in diameter. I wouldn’t use it to guide our next mission to Titan. Between craters and cryovolcanoes, it would seem that craters would be the most ideal location for pre-biotic or biotic chemistry to occur. Warmer water would allow for faster chemical reaction rates, which would help in the creation of prebiotic or even biotic molecules. You will receive a verification email shortly. Receive news and offers from our other brands? In late July 2018, a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Astrobiology and reported on in Astrobiology Magazine suggests the best places on Titan to look for evidence of life. These calculations were based on rainfall into Ligeia Mare, a body of liquid methane 3000 square miles bigger than Lake Michigan and situated near Titan’s North Pole. Although there are liquid hydrocarbon lakes on Titan, at temperatures that low the phospholipid tails would also become far too rigid and stiff to form a flexible membrane. Visit our corporate site. This molecule is a vital component for cell formation, therefore its presence is a strong indicator that life could well exist in one of Titan’s many lakes and seas.