ET might be on the moon- Saturn’s moon Titan to be exact.
While analyzing the chemical data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, scientists found some strange things accruing on the moon.
The study suggests that hydrogen is flowing down through Titan’s atmosphere, and disappearing at the surface. This could be a sign of life, because hydrogen would be the life-giving gas on Titan, much like oxygen is on Earth, Astrobiologist Chris McKay of the NASA Ames Research Center, explained to Space.com. There’s a chance hydrogen is disappearing because organisms are “breathing” it in.
Another analysis of Cassini’s data shows a lack of acetylene on the moon’s surface. This is a compound that could be consumed by life that relies on methane instead of water to live. Temperatures on Titan are too cold for water to be a liquid. So, organisms would have to rely on something else, and lakes of liquid methane have been reported on the moon.
“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 told Space.com.
But, scientists caution, don’t buy wholeheartedly into the hype.
“Scientific conservatism suggests that a biological explanation should be the last choice after all non-biological explanations are addressed,” Mark Allen, principal investigator with the NASA Astrobiology Institute Titan team, told Space.com. “We have a lot of work to do to rule out possible non-biological explanations. It is more likely that a chemical process, without biology, can explain these results.”
One explanation for the hydrogen’s and acetylene’s disappearance on Titan’s surface is that an unknown mineral might be converting them back into methane. Or, as Allen explained, sunlight or cosmic rays could be transforming acetylene into different molecules. The chemical life on Titan is an extremely active one, leading to any number of non-biological explanations.
Overall, McKay told Space.com, the findings are “still a long way from evidence of life. But it could be interesting.”