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STScI Astrobiology Lecture Series

Titan: Ingredients for Life

Presented by: Catherine Neish  ((Florida Institute of Technology))
Category: Science Colloquia   Duration: 2 hours and 30 minutes   Broadcast date: March 07, 2014
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NASA's Cassini mission has revealed Saturn's larger moon Titan to be a world rich in the "stuff of life." Reactions occurring in its dense nitrogen-methane atmosphere produce a wide variety of organic molecules, which subsequently rain down onto its surface. If these molecules mix with water found in cryovolanic lavas or impact melts on Titan's surface, they may react to form biological molecules such as amino acids. In this presentation, I will report on experimental work seeking to determine the type and quantity of biomolecules formed under conditions analogous to those found in transient liquid water environments on Titan. These reactions are intriguingly similar to reactions that may have occurred on the early Earth, and provide clues to the origin of life on our own world and worlds throughout the universe.