Friday, June 11, 2010

Strange Discovery on Titan Leads to Speculation of Alien Life

New findings have roused a great deal of hoopla over the possibility of life on Saturn's moon Titan, which some news reports have further hyped up as hints of extraterrestrials. However, scientists also caution that aliens might have nothing to do with these findings.

All this excitement is rooted in analyses of chemical data returned by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. One study suggested that hydrogen was flowing down through Titan's atmosphere and disappearing at the surface. Astrobiologist Chris McKay at NASA Ames Research Center speculated this could be a tantalizing hint that hydrogen is getting consumed by life.

"It's the obvious gas for life to consume on Titan, similar to the way we consume oxygen on Earth," McKay said.

Another study investigating hydrocarbons on Titan's surface found a lack of acetylene, a compound that could be consumed as food by life that relies on liquid methane instead of liquid water to live.

"If these signs do turn out to be a sign of life, it would be doubly exciting because it would represent a second form of life independent from water-based life on Earth," McKay said.

However, NASA scientists caution that aliens might not be involved at all.

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