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Dragonfly: Contemplating a Return to Titan

27 Dec 2017, 14:07 UTC
Dragonfly: Contemplating a Return to Titan
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Our continuing interest in Titan as a possible venue for life was energized last year with the publication of a paper by Martin Rahm and Jonathan Lunine, working with colleagues David Usher and David Shalloway (all at Cornell University). I’ve written about this one before (see Prebiotic Chemistry on Titan?) and won’t revisit the details, but the gist is that hydrogen cyanide produced in Titan’s atmosphere can condense into aerosols that are transformed into interesting polymers on the surface. Of these, the most intriguing seems to be polyimine.

The authors see polyimine as capable of producing complex, ordered structures that absorb light, producing energy that can be used to catalyze prebiotic chemistry. Rather than looking in Titan’s seas, the authors think we’ll find hydrogen cyanide reactions in tidal pools on the shores near seas and lakes. It’s an interesting proposition, and like so many notions about Titan, it requires us to get a payload back to the surface, as we did in 2005 with Huygens. But this time, we’ll want to have extended survivability on Titan and a full suite of instruments.
Image: This composite was produced from images returned on 14 January 2005, by ESA’s Huygens probe during its ...

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