In a bid to investigate the chemical precursors of life on Saturn’s hazy moon, Titan, a team of international scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has tracked down the presence of Vinyl Cyanide in Titan’s atmosphere, a chemical molecule that may develop cell membranes in space.
Saturn’s moon Titan is an orb that has been long intrigued scientists about its formations, structure, and ambiguity. And to find out the possible presence of chemical precursors of life on this fuzzy planet, scientists have been trying since long. However, during the latest investigation, a team of NASA scientists succeeded in detecting the chemical Acrylonitrile on earth, also called vinyl cyanide in the fussy atmosphere of Titan, a remarkable breakthrough which may pave the path for the development of cell membranes in space.
As detailed in the study paper, published in the journal Sciences Advances over this weekend, the chemical Acrylonitrile or vinyl cyanide is used in the manufacturing process of plastic, here on earth. But its presence under the harsh conditions of Saturn’s Titan raises hope about its capability to develop stable and flexible structures akin to cell membranes in the space.
Maureen Palmer of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the lead author of the study highlighted, “Saturn’s largest moon, Titan has an essential building block of life in its atmosphere are we are hopeful to find out the chemical forerunners of life on the orb.”
The negatively charged molecules, found from Titan’s atmosphere are called ‘carbon chain anions’ and are believed to be the building blocks of the more complex molecules and earliest form of life on earth. As the researchers highlighted in the paper, the discovery of the negatively charged ions is startling as it will completely rephrase the current understanding of Saturn’s moon. The particles they are extremely knee-jerk and are not expected to last long in Titan’s atmosphere before merging with other materials.
Scientists identified the chemical fingerprint of Acrylonitrile in the atmosphere of Titan by using the data collected by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), stationed in Chile. The team, during their investigation, came across substantial quantities of the chemical on Titan, and the presence of such molecules in high amount is most likely to contribute to the brownish-orange color of Titan.
According to the paper, published in Science Advances, on July 28, 2017, the presence of Acrylonitrile may help the cells of Earth’s animals and plants not to hold up in good health on Titan, where the atmosphere is dominated by nitrogen, average surface temperatures is minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 179 degrees Celsius), and lakes edge with fluid methane, ethane.