Saturn is one of the most well-known planets in our solar system. Mainly due to its rings, people often see this as one of the most-recognizable planets in our solar system. That being said though, scientists from Cornell University have discovered that it might actually be possible to support life – in an alternative way on one of Saturn’s moons. The moon in question is called Titan, and is quite large for a moon, but compared to Saturn it is considerably smaller. The team though recognized that life would not be the kind of life we know here on Earth. Meaning life would happen without oxygen being a main portion of the equation.
Members of the team were both astronomers and chemical engineers and they took a unique approach to determining how life could happen on a surface like Titan. After all, life can only be achieved if a few basic fundamentals are present. Two big things that cells need to do, in order to exist on their own in an environment like that, would be to metabolize and reproduce. The team pointed out that if that were possible, then they would in turn be able to exist. However, that is no simple task when you’re talking about an alternative to an oxygen-based cell.
As they set out to do it though, they found that it actually would be possible to make all of these things happen in cellular form – within the methane-base of the moon. The secret for this team would be cells produced of small nitrogen compounds that could survive in some pretty extreme temperatures. In fact, so extreme that they would be able to even survive in liquid methane – which is plentiful on Titan. The key temperature to keep in mind with regards to this liquid methane is 292 degrees below zero because that is what temperature at which the cells would be required to function at.
Interestingly, the team didn’t consist of any biologists, and they believe that this ultimately paid off for them. The move was one that allowed them to go into the project with no preconceived notions about what the building blocks of life have to be, or what they should be. They simply worked with the compounds that were present until they found a group of components that worked. The team also pointed out that they eventually hope their theory can be tested by getting a sample from the surface of Titan. At that point they would be able to test what are the building blocks, and really determine if it could be replicated.