Life In Titan's Atmosphere

Based off of this article.

Titan is, once again, proving to be a planet of miraculous proportions. Yes, I realize it’s technically a moon of Jupiter, but it’s the size and class of a planet, and now it is the only other (known) place in the solar system that can support the formation of RNA and DNA. Molecules of that sort haven’t been discovered in Titan’s atmosphere, but all the building blocks are there, and simulations show that they can be created. However, interestingly, they can only be created in the atmosphere. On the ground, the energy isn’t available to crack the molecules apart and recombine them.

It seems that every time we learn more, we find that life is a strong force than expected. Everywhere once considered lifeless on Earth has creatures of some sort living in it. Now it appears that even if Titan doesn’t have life yet, it can support it at the bacterial level, and that usually means that somewhere, kicking around in the atmosphere, is a form of life that we haven’t yet discovered.

I think part of the flaw of SETI and the hunt for life outside of Earth is that currently we only assume carbon-based molecules qualify as life. This is partly an inherent bias and partly because it’s the kind of thing that we know how to look for. There are other systems that could exist out there, and have been postulated, but we don’t put the sophisticated detection equipment on probes just yet. In time, we will, and then I think science will get even more interesting.

Titan is one of the few places in the solar system where I would love to travel, to see the lakes of methane evaporate and reappear, to see a new star and a new planet flying overhead. I doubt it will happen in my lifetime, but when it does, I suspect we’ll find atmospheric particles that qualify as well.

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