Saturn’s Moon Titan Might Explain How Life Started on Earth
Titan is an intriguing World.
Exactly how life sprung up on Earth is a bit of a mystery, but scientists generally agree the story goes something like this: the early Earth had the right kind and amount of simple organic chemicals. As energy was added to this so-called primordial soup, in the form of either sunlight or lightning, these simple chemicals underwent a series of reactions that yielded increasingly complex chemicals. At some point, this chemically complex soup crossed a threshold and the compounds within developed the ability to reproduce themselves. Over many generations, these self-replicating compounds eventually developed into the first DNA strands, forming the first simple organisms. Life had begun.
The main problem with this theory is that it’s really hard to test. Running a billion-year experiment is just plain impractical. And there’s the problem of getting the right primordial matter. All organic matter on Earth have been cycled through living things for billions of years, so we don’t really have the right pre-life matter to study.
But Titan does; aside from the Earth it’s the only body in the Solar System that we know has the right kind and quantity of organic substances on its surface to shed light on how life on Earth might have started. As far as we know from the Huygens lander and the spacecraft that have flown by the planet and measured its atmosphere, the organic materials on Titan, which include deposits of methane and other hydrocarbons as large as Earth’s Great Lakes, are in pristine condition. They’ve never been in contact with any kind of life.
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