Year: 2018-19

Aditya Shankar

School: Jnanadeepa Senior Secondary School Javalli

Grade: 9

City: Shivamogga, Karnataka

"The name 'Titan' evokes in me , an awe as the word by itself means something great. This moon is a satellite deriving its origin from the planet it orbits. Of the numerous moons of Saturn, Titan holds a special place as it is not only massive and bigger than mercury but has one of the densest atmosphere because of the hydrostatic equilibrium.

In my opinion, amongst the Saturn’s vast lot of moons , NASA should research Titan ,as it is rich in hydrocarbons, methane, nitrogen, which are essential for evolution of life. Titan's atmosphere resembles that of our 'baby earth', a prebiotic stage of earth where life had not yet begun, but all the necessary ingredients were present and right time or conditions were awaited for things to happen. The dense nitrogen rich atmosphere of titan , the subsurface rivers or lakes form the ideal bed for evolution of life. The ammonia rich environment serves as the source for formation of amino acids which inturn are the building blocks for DNA or RNA. For life to start we know that these are basic necessities. Primitive microbes, viruses or prions may evolve paving ways for the larger forms of life to appear . This offers us the best chance to view evolution of life , the findings of which we could extrapolate to our evolution.

Titan clutches to its atmosphere, thereby preventing its diffusion in to space. Because of this it receives only 1% of sunlight, making it more colder and uninhabitable. However, on its surface there are rocky terrains, dry lakes and subsurface liquids . A potentially hot magma underneath prevents the liquid from freezing. This 'soup' can be the cradle for evolution as it contains many complex organic molecules in addition to methane and hydrocarbons. Hence analysing this would be interesting and would shed light on how things shape when life begins.

Recent studies on Titan have revealed presence of carbon chain compounds which could complex with quite a few other organic molecules leading to formation of macro molecules . Further, methane present in abundance could concentrate these to form biomolecules. If we consider the biological aspect, there have been attempts to grow microbes in the methane rich environment simulating that of the Titan . These utilize hydrogen and acetylene for their growth. So assessment of depleting acetylene levels would give a fair idea of presence of these microorganisms. Also azotosome , an experimental cell membrane is being tested by scientists for this atmosphere

Would life evolve in such hostile conditions making use of Titan's resources?

Even if life evolves in Titan, how would it be ?

These are the questions that need to be answered."

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