Jonathan Lunine, Ph.D., said that Titan, the largest of Saturn's several dozen moons, is providing insights into the evolution of life unavailable elsewhere.
Lunine said that data sent back to Earth from space missions allow them to test an idea that underpins modern science's portrait of the origin of life on Earth.
He said that his team thinks that simple organic chemicals present on the primordial Earth, influenced by sunlight and other sources of energy, underwent reactions that produced more and more complex chemicals.
Lunine asserted that at some point, they crossed a threshold - developing the ability to reproduce themselves.
Lunine, who is with Cornell University and is one of about 260 scientists involved with the Cassini-Huygens mission, explained that Titan and Earth in the solar system have the large amounts of organic substances on their surfaces to provide such information.
Organic substances on Earth, however, have been cycled through living things countless times. Titan's organic materials, which include deposits of methane and other hydrocarbons as large as some of the Great Lakes, are in pristine condition - never, so far as anyone knows, in contact with life.
Recent research has provided hints that liquid water may exist deep under Titan's surface. Other data suggest that areas of Titan's seafloor may be similar to areas of Earth's seafloors where hydrothermal vents exist. These passways into Earth's interior spout hot, mineral-rich water that fosters an array of once-unknown forms of life.
--ANI (Posted on 14-09-2013)