Scientists, for the first time, have unveiled the geological map of Saturn's moon Titan, which is widely considered as a potential candidate to spot alien life beyond earth. This newly unveiled geological map includes cast planes, dunes of organic materials, and liquid methane lakes.
Scientists prepared this map using radar, infrared and some crucial data obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft that studied Saturn and its moon from 2004 to 2017. The study report published in journal Nature Astronomy that details the mapping of Titan reveals that this space body is unique in our solar system, as it is the only moon with clouds and a dense atmosphere of nitrogen and methane. It should be noted that the presence of nitrogen and methane in the atmosphere of methane gives Titan a fuzzy orange appearance.
"Organics are very important for the possibility of life on Titan, which many of us think likely would have evolved in the liquid water ocean under Titan's icy crust. Organic materials can, we think, penetrate down to the liquid water ocean and this can provide nutrients necessary for life if it evolved there," said Rosaly Lopes, a planetary geologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Reuters reports.
Interestingly, Titan is the only space body, apart from the earth in the solar system that holds liquids on its surface. However, unlike the earth, clouds in Titan spew methane and ethane, gases on earth which appears in liquid form in Titan due to the frigid climate there. Scientists believe that lakes and seas in the polar regions of Titan are filled with liquid methane.
"What is really fun to think about is if there are any ways that those more complex organics can go down and mix with water in the deep icy crust or deep subsurface ocean," said Michael Malaska, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the lead author of the study.
A few months back, NASA officially announced its plans to explore the surface of Titan to determine whether the moon is hosting alien life in any forms. The United States space agency revealed that this upcoming exploration will be carried out by a robotic craft named 'Dragonfly'. The Dragonfly probe is expected to reach Titan by 2034.