Something is consuming hydrogen and organic molecules on Saturn's moon Titan.

...snip..

New data from the Cassini spacecraft show hydrogen is disappearing near Titan's surface. What's more, scientists have not been able to find acetylene, an organic molecule that should be pretty abundant in the moon's thick atmosphere.

...NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay, proposed five years ago that microbial life on Titan could breathe hydrogen and eat acetylene, producing methane as a result.

Scientists emphasize that the findings are not proof of life, and there's plenty of work to do before non-biological causes can be ruled out. Scientific conservatism suggests that a biological explanation should be the last choice after all non-biological explanations are addressed.

What is being observed is hydrogen is disappearing at the surface of the moon and the molecule acetylene appears to be absent when it should be abundant. Further, methane is being produced at the surface. It's possible hydrogen is combining with carbon on the surface to produce methane. But Titan is too cold for that to happen quickly enough to account for all the missing hydrogen.

 

C2H2 + 3H2 ---> 2CH4 + energy

acetylene + hydrogen → methane + energy

Cassini will be making several more flybys of the moon and will collect more data, but for now, there is no conclusion on the mechanisms involved in the phenomenon.

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Replies to This Discussion

@Terance

I agree...

When I say life I mean 'life' in the general sense.

I do agree that we have no idea how common or uncommon humanity, by this I mean a cognitive and aware consciousness, could be.

More then likely the common forms are more microbial and virus like, then the collection of cells that are what we are.
Where did that load come from? Take your whoo elsewhere.
Meh. =P
Excellent. Might take my next holiday there.
What’s happening on Mars? Mostly mild sand devils and nothing very much else, I fear. Not even the odd earthquake these days. If anything lives there, it had better like murky, subterranean, anaerobic, salty, just-not-freezing brines.
As for life outside the Solar System, they’ve probably all gone digital, rendering SETI quite useless.
Methane? Interesting; hadn’t got there yet. (I’ve been reading William K. Hartmann of late, trying to keep up with the developments. But since I got a job, I’ve hardly had any time for my childhood interest.)
I’m quite willing to believe Frank Drake’s little estimate about the number of civilisations in the Galaxy, but as long as we haven’t actually seen ‘something that’s alive’, it lacks empirical corroboration.
Buck Rogers? Had to look that up. Not really into sci-fi.
Any life would be interesting. It doesn't need to have teeth.
More than interesting, it would be a monumental discovery. If the organisms contained RNA and/or DNA that would be amazing, however, if it had a totally different biological coding system it would make the discovery even more astounding.
Whatever. I just hope they don't attribute their own coding system (biological or otherwise) to an unknowable higher power.
Nah! Don't those morons know that God is made of ectoplasm and phlogisten.
The discovery last year of unexpected quantities of methane burping on Mars is very intriguing.

Then again, it could be just a bunch of drunks eating pickled eggs.
As for life outside the Solar System, they’ve probably all gone digital, rendering SETI quite useless.
Actually the Earth has pretty much eliminated any high power broadcast signal and use cable, fiber optic, tight beam broadcasts and low power devices (cell phones). I estimate that with in the next few decades we will have little or no broadcasts powerful enough to be detected by extra-solar intelligences. If other civilizations are any thing like us there will be only about a 2 hundred year window of power broadcasting - and then they would have to be at the same level of technology as we are.
The chances of detecting extra-solar civilizations' broadcast are very, very slim.
Thanks for posting this here Jim, I didn't have a chance to dig into the expanded version off of arstechnica.

It just makes me giddy, to think that life might be more common then it first appears in the universe.

If we can actually find two separate origins of life in our own solar system, it completely changes the way we will look at the universe.

This could be as big as the switch from the geocentric universe to a heliocentric universe.

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