Is er leven op Titan?

Nieuws | de redactie
12 oktober 2010 | Op Titan, de grootste maan van Saturnus, is vanwege de grote afstand tot de zon geen vloeibaar water aanwezig. Toch kan het zijn dat leven mogelijk is, zo blijkt uit onderzoek van de University of Arizona. Een namaak-atmosfeer van de grote maan laat zien, dat ook zonder water verbazend veel mogelijk is.

Leven zonder water

It’s just a lab experiment, but University of Arizonaresearcher Sarah Horst says that her team’s re-creation of theatmosphere on Saturn’s moon Titan showed that atmospheric reactionscould produce some of life’s basic ingredients, and do it withoutthe presence of liquid water.

Titan boasts a thick atmosphere of mostly nitrogen with dashes ofmethane, carbon monoxide, and other trace ingredients (At -290degrees Fahrenheit, Titan is a tad too frigid for liquid water).Horst brewed up an approximation of that mixture. She and hercolleagues then blasted it with radio-frequency radiation, a labstand-in for ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

Leren over de aarde

“The really important thing is that you have enough energyto break that [nitrogen] bond,” she said. “We know there’s enoughenergy to break those bonds on Titan.” The experiment produced aslew of complicated molecules; the team has identified some 20,000different kinds using mass spectrometry, Horst said. Included inthis number are amino acids and nucleotide bases – the first timethese molecules have been synthesized in an atmosphere simulationexperiment without the use of liquid water, researchers said.

Horst presented the project at a meeting of the AmericanAstronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Science, the sameconference that has been buzzing with other fascinating ideas aboutSaturn and its lively satellites. And like other researchershunting for life’s building blocks on Titan, Enceladus, Europa, orelsewhere, Horst’s team contends that their work could tell us moreabout the emergence of life here on Earth.

As Science Now pointed out, “the researchers said that because theyachieved the reactions without the presence of liquid water, it’spossible life could have sprung forth on Earth not in the seas, ascommonly assumed, but perhaps in the planet’s early atmosphere-aconsiderably thinner version of the fog enveloping Titantoday.”

Bron: CBS news


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