Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Past life forms on a moon of Saturn?

Jonathan Amos reported for BBC News on an ice volcano on one of Saturn’s moons (“Ice volcano' identified on Saturn's moon Titan”, 14 December 2010):
Scientists think they now have the best evidence yet for an ice volcano on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.

The Cassini probe has spotted a 1,500m-high mountain with a deep pit in it, and what looks like a flow of material on the surrounding surface.

The new feature, which has been dubbed "The Rose", was seen with the probe's radar and infrared instruments.

Rose volcano on Titan, NASA
Titan has long been speculated to have cryovolcanoes but its hazy atmosphere makes all observations very difficult.

Researchers are now wondering how active this mountain might be, and what sort of lava it could spew.

"Much of Titan's outer material is water-ice and ammonia, and so that's certainly one possible material that could melt at low temperatures and flow on the surface," explained Dr Randy Kirk, a Cassini radar team-member from the US Geological Survey (USGS).
Some of us kept wondering where the “life on Titan” hook would come in, and a friend spotted it here, at the very end:
Might cryo-lavas have dredged up indications of fossils or chemical remains of sub-surface life?
Well, maybe, but then space aliens might have used our DNA to hide messages too ...

One so much wishes that all the research would pay off soon, that some evidence of life elsewhere would actually be found. Primitive life would, in my view, be rather more interesting than the “Take me to your leader” crowd of science fiction.

Notice to extraterrestrials: We have enough politicians and others who know how to run the world here already. Why not take some home with you as souvenirs?