Titan is Saturn's largest moon

Saturn's moon Titan: "Almost optimal" conditions for life after impacts

Impacts from large meteorites or asteroids could have created "almost optimal" habitable ecosystems on Saturn's moon Titan or create them again in the future. This is the conclusion reached by a group of researchers led by Alvaro Penteado Crósta from the National University of Campinas in Brazil in an analysis that they have now presented. According to this, such impacts could have ensured that organic compounds on the surface and liquid water from the subsurface would have been mixed in a locally limited habitable zone. This could have lasted long enough to allow life to arise.

Titan is the largest moon of the ringed planet Saturn and one of the largest moons in the solar system. Although temperatures of minus 180 degrees Celsius prevail on the surface, thanks to the dense atmosphere there is still one of the most Earth-like environments in the solar system. Besides Earth, Titan is the only known celestial body with liquids on its surface. The lakes discovered do not consist of water, but of liquid hydrocarbons such as methane and ethane. They form a cycle similar to that of water on earth.

In addition, the Cassini space probe has discovered evidence of an ocean of liquid water beneath Titan's surface. On the icy moon there could be life that resembles earthly life - in the ocean below the surface - as well as completely different life - in the liquids on the surface - explains NASA. A mixture of the two environments would be particularly promising, Penteado Crósta and his colleagues now explain to the US journal Science. For example, the impact that created the Menrva titanium crater about a billion years ago could have created a water lake that could have been a million years old. Despite the comparatively short time, microbes could have developed there, they have determined.

Even smaller impacts significantly fewer years ago could have been sufficient for such a process, they add. Then research probes could possibly even find traces of it, speculates Penteado Crósta. NASA's Dragonfly drone is currently being prepared and will be sent to Saturn's moon in 2027. She is scheduled to arrive there in 2036 and explore a crater called Selk, which is probably only a few hundred million years old. The head of research for the NASA mission, however, is skeptical to Science that the impact was enough to punch a hole in the ocean of water.


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