Could There Be Life on Saturn’s Moon?

Photo from NASA

Photo from NASA

Amanda Mourelatos , Associate Editor in Chief

There have been sightings of dust storms on Titan, Saturn’s moon, and that brings up the question: could there be life? From 2004 to 2017, the spacecraft Cassini Huygens explored Saturn’s rings and natural satellites. Sadly, its journey came to an ending when it ran out of fuel and the scientists chose to have Cassini crash into Saturn’s atmosphere instead of staying in orbit. In 2009-2010, Cassini spotted a brightening that happened to be dust storms. In order for there to be dust storms, there would have to be dry climate and strong winds. That being said, it is implied that Titan has an active dust cycle, much like Earth.

Photo of Cassini from NASA

NASA said that it is possible that the dust storms consist of “organic molecules”, considering Titan’s atmosphere consists of of 98.4 percent nitrogen, 1.6 percent methane and 0.1-0.2 percent hydrogen. Astronomer from the Université Paris Diderot, France, Sebastien Rodriguez, said, “We believe that the Huygens Probe, which landed on the surface of Titan in January 2005, raised a small amount of organic dust upon arrival due to its powerful aerodynamic wake, but what we spotted here with Cassini is at a much larger scale. The near-surface wind speeds required to raise such an amount of dust as we see in these dust storms would have to be very strong — about five times as strong as the average wind speeds estimated by the Huygens measurements near the surface and with climate models.” It is also assumed that the regions around the moon’s equator are constantly changing/moving and are active.