We may not be Alone in our own Solar System
I grew up in the age of science fiction. It was every boy’s dream to meet an alien being. I remember “War of the Worlds,” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Then much later came “Close Encounters of the Third Kind;” the special effects were better, and I was older, but the fantasy never totally went away. Scientists now believe that there exists a possibility that a life form could exist on one of Saturn’s moons.
Titan is Saturn’s largest moon. Although life forms such as those on earth could not live on its surface, an alternative organism could. Based on an Isaac Asimov story in 1962 titled, “Not as We Know It,” which reveals life forms that do not exist in a water-based environment, scientists have considered the possibility of just such an existence.
Titan has enormous liquid seas of methane on its surface. Could a methane-based life form exist? Scientists theorize that the possibility exists. On paper, they created a cell membrane which was composed of small organic compounds which could create a cellular structure and be able to exist in the methane seas which reach temperatures of 292 degrees below zero. They used the known compounds found on Titan, which contained mostly nitrogen. Researchers named their creation ‘azotosomes;’ azote is French meaning nitrogen, and soma comes from Greek meaning body.
NASA has sent probes to Titan, but they have a short lifetime thanks to the extreme cold.
It’s doubtful that if an alien, (alien to us), life form does exist, contact between humans and azotosomes could ever happen; they would not be able to breathe in our rich oxygen climate, and we not only couldn’t breathe on Titan, we would instantly freeze. It is fun to think about for all of us nerds.
By James Turnage
Photo Courtesy of NASA and E. Karkoschka (University of Arizona)