• Question: Is it true that there may be a possibility of life on a moon of Saturn

    Asked by fishofdoom to Adam, Catherine, Karen, Leila, Nazim on 15 Mar 2012. This question was also asked by bethanyelliott.
    • Photo: Leila Battison

      Leila Battison answered on 15 Mar 2012:

      Yes! At least, it might be a good place to go and look.

      Life as we know it needs water, so when we’re looking for life in the solar system, we are looking for places where there is water or something like it. Saturn’s moon Titan has lakes of liquid methane on its surface, just like we have lakes of water. So life would be a bit different to cope with the methane, but it could be there.

      There’s another tiny moon inside the rings, called Enceladus, which has probably got liquid water just underneath its surface. Sometimes the water spays out in jets, and scientists think they’ve found organic molecules in those jets. Exciting stuff!

    • Photo: Adam Stevens

      Adam Stevens answered on 15 Mar 2012:

      The best possibilities are Enceladus and Titan.

      Enceladus is covered in ice, but we can see cracks in the ice, which suggest it’s moving. The only way this would be possible is if there’s liquid water underneath it. Since liquid water is so important for life, we think that there could be living things in this sub-ice ocean, possibly right at the bottom where the sea meets the hot rocky core. We’ve also detected Ammonia there, which is good since we know that life likes to use Nitrogen, which makes up Ammonia.

      Titan is a weird place, but it is the only rocky body in the solar system with a thick atmosphere. If there was life on Titan it would probably be really different to the life we normally think of, as it would have use liquid methane instead of water, as it’s so cold on Titan.

    • Photo: Karen Masters

      Karen Masters answered on 19 Mar 2012:

      I have heard this yes. One way we know there’s life on Earth (apart from being it) is that there’s a lot of oxygen in the atmosphere. Left to itself oxygen is so reactive that it’d never be floating around – so the signature of oxygen means something (plants in this case) is continuously making it.

      I have heard that Saturn’s moon Titan has chemicals in its atmosphere that ought not to be there if something isn’t producing them (methane I think). On Earth living organisms make methane – that doesn’t mean they definitely are on Titan too, but it’s a possibility…..