Titan hosts building blocks for life, reveals new data

November 29th, 2007 - 1:58 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Nov 29 (ANI): Scientists have confirmed the presence of such particles in Titan’s atmosphere which may act as building blocks for life.
Though Titan is one of the many moons of Saturn, it is the second largest in the solar system and is the only one with a dense atmosphere.
After analyzing data gathered by the Cassini spacecraft, scientists found the presence of negative ions in the upper regions of Titan’s atmosphere, which may act as organic building blocks for even more complicated molecules.
“Cassini’s electron spectrometer has enabled us to detect negative ions which have 10,000 times the mass of hydrogen. Additional rings of carbon can build up on these ions, forming molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which may act as a basis for the earliest forms of life,” said Professor Andrew Coates, researcher at UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory and lead author of the paper.
“Their existence poses questions about the processes involved in atmospheric chemistry and aerosol formation” said Coates.” We now think it most likely that these negative ions form in the upper atmosphere before moving closer to the surface, where they probably form the mist which shrouds the planet and which has hidden its secrets from us in the past,” he added.
It was this mist which stopped the Voyager mission from examining Titan more closely in 1980 and was one of the reasons that Cassini was launched.
The new paper builds on an earlier work where the team found smaller tholins, up to 8,000 times the mass of hydrogen, forming away from the surface of Titan.
“Tholins are very large, complex, organic molecules thought to include chemical precursors to life. Understanding how they form could provide valuable insight into the origin of life in the solar system,” said Dr Hunter Waite of the South West Research Institute in Texas and author of the earlier study. (ANI)

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