Titan’s lakes might be fizzing with nitrogen bubbles

A shot by Cassini of the lakes Kraken Mare and Ligeia Mare near Titan’s north pole. Credit: NASA

The results are relevant for future lander-probes to Titan – and to understand the surface chemistry of the only other body in the Solar System known to have liquids on its surface.

Titan’s chemical orgies

Saturn in the background of Titan, its largest moon. Credit: gsfc/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

New studies of Saturn’s moon Titan should make it more familiar – but the more we learn about it, the more outlandish Titan gets.

A falling want of opportunity for life to grip Titan

There is a new possibility for life on Titan. Scientists affiliated with Cornell University have created a blueprint for a cellular lifeform that wouldn’t need water to survive. Water on Earth has been the principal ingredient of, as well as the catalyst for, the formation of life. The Cornell scientists believe water could be replaced by methane on Saturn’s moon Titan, where there are seas full of liquid methane. The scientists’ work essentially lies in finding a suitable alternative for the phospholipid bilayer, a double-layer of fatty acids that constitutes every cell’s membrane… Read More

A close encounter with the mid-sized, icy kind

In three days, NASA’s Cassini mission will fly by Saturn’s second-largest moon Rhea. While interest in the Saturnian moons has been hogged by the largest – Titan – Cassini‘s images of Rhea could provide important new information about a class of natural satellites that it exemplifies: the so-called ‘mid-sized’ moons. While Titan is big enough to be a planet, it is also an exception. Only 13 of Saturn’s 62 confirmed moons are bigger than 50 km in diameter. Among them, Rhea is the largest, and its diameter is still less than a third of Titan’s. As… Read More

Life on Titan’s world of goo

In the August 8 issue of Science, an international team of scientists has a paper that submits evidence of life in an asphalt lake in Trinidad. Despite having a low water content of 13.5%, it still possesses methane-digesting microbes huddled up in tiny water droplets. One of the authors, Dirk Schulze-Makuch, speculates in an Air & Space Magazine article that the find could have important implications for Saturn’s moon Titan, which is wrapped in chemistries similar to what was found in the lake minus the presence of liquid water. In fact, its atmosphere… Read More

Life on Titan’s world of goo

In the August 8 issue of Science, an international team of scientists has a paper that submits evidence of life in an asphalt lake in Trinidad. Despite having a low water content of 13.5%, it still possesses methane-digesting microbes huddled up in tiny water droplets. One of the authors, Dirk Schulze-Makuch, speculates in an Air & Space Magazine article that the find could have important implications for Saturn’s moon Titan, which is wrapped in chemistries similar to what was found in the lake minus the presence of liquid water. In fact, its atmosphere… Read More

What life on Earth tells us about life ‘elsewhere’

In 1950, the physicist Enrico Fermi asked a question not many could forget for a long time: “Where is everybody?” He was referring to the notion that, given the age and size of the universe, advanced civilizations ought to have arisen in many parts of it. But if they had, then where are their space probes and radio signals? In the 60 years since, we haven’t come any closer to answering Fermi, although many interesting explanations have cropped up. In this time, the the search for “Where” has encouraged with it a search for “What” as… Read More