by Andrew Follett
Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, has flowing rivers on its surface, meaning it’s more likely the moon is is capable of developing alien life.
Scientists used NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to observe deep canyons on Titan filled with vast bodies of liquid hydrocarbons like methane and ethane. The discovery could make life on Titan much more likely, as some scientists speculate that these hydrocarbons could take the place of water in living cells in alien life.
“Earth is warm and rocky, with rivers of water, while Titan is cold and icy, with rivers of methane. And yet it’s remarkable that we find such similar features on both worlds,” Dr. Alex Hayes, who studies Titan at Cornell University, said in a press statement. “The canyons found in Titan’s north are even more surprising, as we have no idea how they formed. Their narrow width and depth imply rapid erosion, as sea levels rise and fall in the nearby sea.”
It remains extremely unclear how canyons on Titan formed, and other anomalies detected by NASA’s Cassini mission could potentially have been generated by methane-producing organisms. If life does exist on Titan, it would be far different from life on Earth.
Additionally, there is strong evidence that actual liquid water could also be present on Titan below the surface. Saturn’s powerful gravity stretches and deforms Titan as the moon orbits the gas giant. Scientists have concluded that if Titan were composed entirely of stiff rock, the gravity of Saturn would cause bulges, or solid “tides,” only 3 feet tall. Instead, Cassini detected huge tides of roughly 30 feet in height, indicating a liquid core.
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