Using data from Cassini mission, scientists have got success in identifying building blocks of life on Saturn’s largest moon Titan. The team says these negatively charged molecules (carbon chain anions) were detected in the upper atmosphere of Titan. According to experts, the latest finding not only presents Titan as a big contender for hosting some primate life but also poses a big challenge to current theories about how Titan’s atmosphere works.

Titan has a thick atmosphere

Since its arrival on Saturn’s system in 2004, the Cassini-Huygens mission has found evidence of a methane cycle, prebiotic conditions and organic chemistry on Titan.

This largest moon of Saturn boasts a thick atmosphere made up of methane and nitrogen, thus presenting a good example of exciting chemistry in our solar system. Titan is even believed to have conditions similar to the atmosphere of early Earth, before the build-up of oxygen.

In this study, researchers examined data collected by the Cassini space probe and were able to identify carbon chain anions in the atmosphere of Titan. According to scientists, these negatively charged species of the molecule are the building blocks of life as they can produce more complex organic molecules. To date, scientists have detected some molecular building blocks of life in comets, meteorites, and interstellar dust.

However, these materials were created millions of years ago, so it is almost impossible for scientists to know how they were created.

Cassini Plasma Spectrometer detected carbon chain anions in the Titan’s atmosphere

The carbon chain anions on Titan’s upper atmosphere were detected by Cassini Plasma Spectrometer when the probe was flying at a distance of 950–1300 km above the surface of Titan.

Scientists were not expecting these negatively charged molecules on Titan as they are quickly lost in the space environments due to their tendency to quickly react with other molecules. Their discovery on Saturn’s biggest moon suggests they are still being created on Titan today and could be an important missing link between simple molecules and complex organic compounds.

The team that made this discovery included researchers from University College London in the UK, the University of Colorado, the University of Grenoble, the Southwest Research Institute, Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Uppsala University, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

The detailed findings of the study, titled “Carbon Chain Anions and the Growth of Complex Organic Molecules in Titan’s Ionosphere,” have been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.