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Potential ingredient for alien life found on Titan

Vinyl cyanide on the Saturnian moon could form millions of cell-like balls in methane oceans

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2:32pm, July 28, 2017
Titan

TOUGH INGREDIENTS Saturn’s moon Titan is frigid and lacks water, but it appears to hold one building block for a proposed alternative form of life.

A molecule that could help build otherworldly life is present on Saturn’s moon Titan, researchers have discovered.

Vinyl cyanide, a compound predicted to form membranelike structures, is created in Titan’s upper atmosphere, scientists report July 28 in Science Advances. There’s enough vinyl cyanide (C2H3CN) in the moon’s liquid methane seas to make about 10 million cell-like balls per cubic centimeter of ocean, researchers calculate. On Earth, about a million bacteria are found in a cubic centimeter of ocean water near shore.

“It’s very positive news for putative-Titan-life studies,” says Jonathan Lunine, a planetary scientist at Cornell University who was not involved in the new study.

Titan has no water, usually considered a prerequisite for life. Instead of water, freezing-cold Titan has liquid methane. There’s even a methane cycle that

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