Jun 26, 2019 | Updated: 11:46 PM EDT

Saturn’s Moon Shows Signs Of Life

May 04, 2019 08:37 AM EDT

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Saturn has 62 identified moons, but only the Titan is the only known moon with an atmosphere. Scientists have equated the titan to the Earth, as it is the only moon that experiences rain. It comes with oceans, lakes and researchers continue to discover many Earth-like features on it. This month alone, researchers have discovered deep lakes, ice features and a vision of what seemed like a winter storm. All these point out one thing -- this moon may be just like the Earth and is now showing signs of life.

NASA officials are looking at sending a team to probe on the possible survival in Titan. Can life survive this planet? This is exactly what the Dragonfly Drone mission is for. But before anything else, it is important that people understand what it is about the Titan that gets a lot of scientists excited.

What makes Titan special compared to other Saturn's Moon?

Titan comes with its own atmosphere, but its air mixture is rather complex chemistry. It comes with seasons. It has lakes and it rains there too. It comes with mountain ridges, valleys, dunes, and mesas. Although all of these sound too familiar, its atmosphere is made up of 98% nitrogen gas and 2% methane. The seas and lakes are not water at all. They contain methane and ethane instead of water.

Artist's concept of a dust storm on Titan. Researchers believe that huge amounts of dust can be raised on Titan, Saturn's largest moon, by strong wind gusts that arise in powerful methane storms. Such methane storms, previously observed in images from the international Cassini spacecraft, can form above dune fields that cover the equatorial regions of this moon especially around the equinox, the time of the year when the Sun crosses the equator. The Cassini spacecraft ended its mission on Sept. 15, 2017.
(Photo : NASA/ESA/IPGP/Labex UnivEarthS/University Paris Diderot) Artist's concept of a dust storm on Titan. Researchers believe that huge amounts of dust can be raised on Titan, Saturn's largest moon, by strong wind gusts that arise in powerful methane storms. Such methane storms, previously observed in images from the international Cassini spacecraft, can form above dune fields that cover the equatorial regions of this moon especially around the equinox, the time of the year when the Sun crosses the equator. The Cassini spacecraft ended its mission on Sept. 15, 2017.

The source of methane in the atmosphere of the Titan remains to be unknown. The researchers from NASA are already looking at it by observing the images of its atmosphere taken by the Cassini probe. The researchers from the University of Arizona discovered an "ice corridor" which basically wraps the entire planet by as much as 40%. The paper about this amazing discovery is published in the Nature Astronomy.

The Titan is also covered in hazy methane clouds. Despite several attempts to identify the source of methane in the planet, it remains to be a mystery. Scientists were working around the theory that there are methane reservoirs under its surface that seem to vent out into the atmosphere through cryovolcanoes or what is also known as "ice volcanoes." However, researchers found that there were no ice volcanoes, but they found ice corridors instead.

"The ice corridors are very puzzling in existence because their measurements do not correlate with the other features of the planet," said Caitlin Griffith, professor at the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and lead author of the study. She further added that given the fact that the Titan is not volcanically active, the ice corridors may likely be the vestige of the past.

"We have detected the ice corridors on steep slopes, but not in all the slopes. This is a clear indication of the erosion of these ice corridors, potentially unveiling the presence of organic strata," Griffith added.

Can life exist in the Titan? This remains to be a questions that can only be answered by conducting further studies.

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