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Alien Life on Titan May Exist Without Water

by Sankalan Baidya
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Alien life on titan

We Earthlings cannot live without water. But what about alien life? Can there be alien life on Titan? Can they live without water? This is one question that we should be asking to ourselves again and again. The problem with our thought process is that it is crippled. It is crippled by the conditions that we face on Earth and the expectation that stem out of those conditions. For instance, we know that life is literally impossible without water on this planet. It is because of this knowledge our expectations are that life somewhere else in universe will also need water.

Possibility of Alien Life on Titan

But how true is that? Alien life on Titan? After all, alien life may be truly alien and bizarre. Aliens may live in conditions that may be deadly to any known life form on Earth. In hunt for alien life, we don’t need to look far beyond our solar system. We just need to step on Titan – the moon of Saturn.

Titan is known to be covered in oceans, lakes and streams. Unlike Earth’s water-based oceans, lakes and streams, the liquid bodies on Titan are composed of something else. They are all made of Ethane and Methane in liquid forms. Isn’t that the setup for a truly alien world?

The question is, if there is no water on Titan and it is all Ethane and Methane, could life possibly exist there? The answer to this question can be found in “Polymorphism and electronic structure of polyimine and its potential significance for prebiotic chemistry on Titan”. That’s a paper that has been published in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences. It is all about a new scientific research that hopes to find completely new lifeforms or alien life on Titan.

The published paper is a study of all similarities of Titan with our Earth and all the differences between the two celestial bodies. It also explores the possibility of existence of alien life on the distant moon.

Experiments and Possibilities of Alien Life on Titan

According to the abstract of the study, the most abundant hydrogen-binding molecule present in Titan’s atmosphere is hydrogen cyanide. Suggestions from observational and experimental data state that hydrogen cyanide molecules, may on Titan’s surface, polymerize into polyimine.

The group of scientists involved in this study state that they polyimine has really interesting structural and electrical properties. They found these properties using what is known as quantum mechanical calculations. These interesting properties of polyimine can actually support prebiotic chemistry in cryogenic conditions that are similar to Titan.

Martin Rahm, the lead researcher of the published study, says that on Earth, all experiments that are run are at room temperature. Which is why, our expectations are also similar. The distant moon of Saturn is a totally different kind of beast.

What the Relation of Hydrogen Cyanide and Alien Life on Titan?

We have all heard of hydrogen cyanide. It sometimes goes by the name prussic acid. Hydrogen cyanide is flammable, extremely poisonous liquid chemical. It is organic by nature. Because of the its nature, it is really difficult to think of hydrogen cyanide as a life-supporting medium. But what about alien life?

Expose this chemical slightly above the room temperature and it will boil. It is capable of reacting with itself and other molecules too. In the process, it can form polymers of various types. Polyimine is one such polymer. Polyimine is very unique. It is known for absorbing very wide light spectrums.

Titan’s atmosphere is very dense and very little amount of light manages to penetrate through it. However, because of polyimine’s unique ability, it is capable of absorbing even that small amount of light that hits Titan’s surface.

Because polyimine captures light, it might just be able to become a catalyst for life. So, it is possible that some alien life on Titan may exist.

Views On Alien Life on Titan

There are numerous possibilities out there. We as Earthling are very limited in our knowledge. If someone thinks that alien life on Titan is a possibility, then it should not be ignored. However, not everyone is very interested in this proposition.

For instant, Penn State University’s Dr. Robert Minard, who is a chemist, said to Christian Science Monitor that may be self-replicating life forms exist on Titan because of the chemistry going on there but, without oxygen molecules, that looks pretty impossible. According to Mindar, from whatever observations we make on Earth, oxygen is essential for life to exist.

As we said before, our knowledge is crippled by the observations we make and the expectations that we have. Minard’s statement reflects the exact same thing. What if the alien life on Titan doesn’t really require water and oxygen? What if their biology and chemistry follows a different set of evolutionary rules? What if they can survive in super extreme environmental conditions that simply don’t exist on Earth? As we said, possibilities are endless and hence, we need to refine our views and our expectations too.

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