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NASA scientists make sudden discovery of ‘bizarre’ molecule in Titan’s environment

Titan poses in entrance of Saturn on this mosaic picture from the Cassini mission.


NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Chances are cyclopropenylidene (a mix of carbon and hydrogen) by no means appeared in your highschool chemistry class quizzes, however the molecule has some astronomers buzzing because it was found within the environment of Saturn’s intriguing moon Titan.

“Scientists say that this simple carbon-based molecule may be a precursor to more complex compounds that could form or feed possible life on Titan,” NASA said in a statement Tuesday

Titan, an icy moon with methane lakes, is the goal of NASA’s upcoming Dragonfly mission, which is able to search for indicators of previous or current life.   

A analysis group led by NASA scientists published its Titan study in the Astronomical Journal this month. The group made the invention because of observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile.

NASA planetary scientist Conor Nixon described the findings as “really unexpected.” This is the primary time cyclopropenylidene has been present in an environment, although it has been noticed in fuel and mud clouds in house.  

Titan — which scientists suspect harbors a subsurface ocean of water — could also be a parallel for historic Earth. “We think of Titan as a real-life laboratory where we can see similar chemistry to that of ancient Earth when life was taking hold here,” said NASA Goddard astrobiologist Melissa Trainer.

Cyclopropenylidene is not proof of life on Titan, however it provides a brand new layer of intrigue to the numerous mysteries surrounding the fascinating, jumbo-size moon. 

Dragonfly, which is basically a big drone, shall be designed to the touch down in a number of places throughout Titan. We’ll have to attend awhile for clearer solutions to what’s actually occurring there. NASA is aiming for a 2027 launch for the mission.  

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