Could Titan have life?
This week could be history changing with regards to the age-old question of are we alone in the universe. NASA has announced that it will be holding a press conference on Thursday to outline a discovery in astrobiology. The space agency is mum on the details for now but the list of participants in the conference gives up a few indications of what may be revealed.
NASA has set the conference for 2 p.m. EST on Thursday to "discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life." The geek in me wants to think that NASA has found some sort of extraterrestrial life on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.
Participants in the conference being held include:
- Mary Voytek, director, Astrobiology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington
- Felisa Wolfe-Simon, NASA astrobiology research fellow, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.
- Pamela Conrad, astrobiologist, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
- Steven Benner, distinguished fellow, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, Fla.
- James Elser, professor, Arizona State University, Tempe
Kottke.org runs down the specialties of the participants and an image of what we will learn forms quickly. Conrad is a geobiologist and a primary author of a 2009 paper about life on Mars. Wolfe-Simon is an oceanographer that has written a lot on the subject of life that uses arsenic for photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is how plants on earth turn sunlight into energy.
Benner is a geologist that is part of the "Titan Team" studying Titan as an early Earth-like chemical environment. Elser is an astrobiologist that is part of a program called Follow the elements that looks at an environments chemistry as a predictor of where life may be found. Take all of these experts as a whole and it would be easy enough to guess that NASA has found arsenic on Titan and other signs that the moon may have photosynthetic life or all of the building blocks needed for that life to evolve.