Is There a Kraken in Kraken Mare? What Kind of Life Would We Find on Titan?
The left image shows a mosaic of images taken by the Cassini spacecraft in near infrared light. Titan’s polar seas are visible as sunlight glints off of them. The reflection is in the southern part of Kraken Mare, Titan’s largest body of liquid. It consists of liquid methane and other hydrocarbons (compounds of hydrogen and carbon). The right image is a radar image of Kraken Mare, also obtained by Cassini. ‘Kraken’ is the name of a legendary Norse sea monster, and the name apparently alludes (at least fancifully) to the hopes of astrobiologists regarding this intriguing alien sea. Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Could there be life on Saturn’s large moon Titan? Asking the question forces astrobiologists and chemists to think carefully and creatively about the chemistry of life, and how it might be different on other worlds than it is on Earth. In February, a team of researchers from Cornell University, including chemical engineering graduate student James Stevenson, planetary scientist Jonathan Lunine, and chemical engineer Paulette Clancy, published a pioneering study arguing that cell membranes could form under the exotic chemical conditions present on this remarkable moon.
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