Life On Titan
Is there life on Titan? It has not been proven otherwise, so there is hope. It is even possible that the conditions on Titan are like those of Earth when life first formed. The presence of an atmosphere and weather patterns on Titan gives us hope that there is life to be found on this moon. There are many occurrences on Titan which give us the impression that it may be home to living organisms, most of these occurrences being it’s similarities to Earth.
Jonathan Lunine says “Titan is perhaps the most Earth-like place in the Solar System other than Earth, in terms of the balance of processes.” This means that Titans environment has features that create balance and stability to a point where life could be possible. Some of these features are rain, wind, volcanic activity and tectonic activity. These factors help to shape Titan’s surface and influence the possibility of life. Much like Earth, Titan has river channels created by the flow of liquid and even lakes. Geological activity influences the surface by bringing new material to the top and also by shifting the crust through plate activity.
The liquids found on Titan are not what we would first believe though. Because Titan is so cold, there is no water. However, at –195 degrees Fahrenheit it is possible for liquid methane to be present. The liquid methane is the center of weather patterns and surface features on Titan. Methane rain and lakes have shaped riverbeds and influenced the surface of Titan much like water has done to Earth. Titan is also similar to Earth because of its position in the solar system.
It is believed that the processes on Titan and Earth are so similar because they are found in “sweet spots” of the solar system. This means that the balance of distance from the sun, mass and size are suitable for conditions to support living organisms.
The mass of any body in space effects how it can sustain heat flow from its interior. If a planet or moon is too small, it will lose heat gained from the sun quickly. Larger bodies keep more heat.
A bodies distance from the sun effects temperature and in turn the bodies’ ability to hold water. Water makes geological activity possible on Earth, so its importance is very obvious. It is possible that Titan’s methane could be similar in its use on Titan. If a planet is too close to the sun it will have no water and will be far too hot to sustain life forms.
Methane, like our water on Earth rains down on Titan’s surface. However, the buildup of Methane takes a long time before it falls from the atmosphere. This has led scientists to believe that methane rain on Titan is not frequent, but catastrophic when it does happen. Methane rain and possibly a mixture of water and ammonia, which surfaces from volcanoes, have an effect on Titan’s surface structure. This is evidenced by the lack of impact craters, which are obviously not present because of surface disturbances caused by these natural processes.
The processes on Titan are what truly give us hope for life on Titan. It is possible that life forms could occupy specific niches of the moon where the temperature is warmer, such as hot springs. The moons atmosphere, weather patterns, and other natural processes make this an interestingly earthlike place in the galaxy.
The Ingredients for Life
How life began on Earth