Another Building Block of Life Found on Titan: Ice

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 01 May 2019




Titan Hazy Orange Orb
Titan Hazy Orange Orb, shot from Cassini, NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.
Titan's thick hydrocarbon atmosphere makes Saturn's largest moon look like a fuzzy orange ball in this natural color view from the Cassini spacecraft. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.


Building Blocks of Life on Titan

Researchers find ice feature on Saturn's giant moon,
University of Arizona, April 29, 2019.


"Rain, seas and a surface of eroding organic material can be found both on Earth and on Saturn's largest moon, Titan. However, on Titan it is methane, not water, that fills the lakes with slushy raindrops."

"There is no obvious source of methane..."

"...also indicates a diversity of organic material in certain regions. These surface deposits are of interest because laboratory simulations of Titan's atmosphere produce biologically interesting compounds such as amino acids."

Looking for Methane Sources, Found Ice
" set out to study the composition of Titan's surface, partly hoping to find subtle small cryo-volcanos candidates. Yet the major ice feature the researchers found was completely unexpected. It consists of a linear ice corridor that wraps around 40 percent of Titan's circumference."

Titan Ice Feature
3 orientations of Titan's globe. Mapped in blue is the icy corridor. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
This figure shows 3 orientations of Titan's globe. Mapped in blue is the icy corridor. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

"Both Titan and Earth followed different evolutionary paths, and both ended up with unique organic-rich atmospheres and surfaces," Griffth said. "But it is not clear whether Titan and Earth are common blueprints of the organic-rich of bodies or two among many possible organic-rich worlds."


Bottom Line

The unexpected nature of this ice corridor makes a lot more sense, if you understand a bit more about how water operates in the structure and on the surface of Titan, as the lava that blows and flows from the cryo-volcanos this team was looking for.


Peering Through Titan's Hydrocarbon Haze
Peering Through Titan's Hydrocarbon Haze, Credit to NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/University of Idaho.
This composite image shows an infrared view of Saturn's moon Titan from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, acquired during the mission's ''T-114'' flyby on Nov. 13, 2015. Credit to NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/University of Idaho. Big Shot. More.



More Titan

Titan, Image,

Titan Detailed Data,

The Structure of Titan
"...the Cassini-Huygens mission suggests Titan has five primary layers. The innermost layer is a core of rock (specifically, water-bearing silicate rock) about 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) in diameter. Surrounding the core is a shell of water ice—a special type called ice-VI that is only found at extremely high-pressures. The high-pressure ice is surrounded by a layer of salty liquid water, on top of which sits an outer crust of water ice. This surface is coated with organic molecules that have rained or otherwise settled out of the atmosphere in the form of sands and liquids."

The Surface of Titan
"The surface of Titan is one of the most Earthlike places in the solar system, albeit at vastly colder temperatures and with different chemistry. Here it is so cold (-290 degrees Fahrenheit or -179 degrees Celsius) that water ice plays the role of rock. Titan may have volcanic activity as well, but with liquid water “lava” instead of molten rock. Titan’s surface is sculpted by flowing methane and ethane, which carves river channels and fills great lakes with liquid natural gas. No other world in the solar system, aside from Earth, has that kind of liquid activity on its surface."

Life on Titan?



Extra Earth Solar System Ice

Ice Found on the Moon

Lake Mars Discovered by Italian Radar on Mars Express Probe





A Closer Look: Korolev Crater & the Moons of Mars








Space Geology: The Jovian Moons, A Tectonically Active Europa?






More Moons

Moons of Mars Inspired by Fear & Panic



Bottom Line

Finding ice in the solar system bodes well for distant sources of human fuels, if we can manage not to burn all the fuel here, before we can burn it there...




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Titan, moon, Saturn, hydrocarbon atmosphere, hydrocarbon lakes, methane, ice


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