ITHACA, NY – Last month, Cornell astronomers made the argument that if alien life is out there in our galaxy or beyond, we might not hear from it for another 1,500 years.

We might not have to look quite that far, according to a new paper published by Cornell researchers earlier this week.

The paper reveals that the largest of Saturn’s 62 moons, Titan, may have what it takes to support life.

At first glance, Titan doesn’t look all that hospitable. The temperature on Titan is around -290 degrees Fahrenheit. While it has lakes and rivers, they are made of liquid methane instead of water.

According to a report from Gizmodo, previous studies revealed that hydrogen cyanide on Titan’s surface was capable of complex reactions. The new research indicates that the material formed by these reactions is flexible and good at absorbing sunlight.

“It turns out, different conformations of this material absorb different wavelengths of light, including wavelengths that are accessible on the surface of Titan,” Martin Rahm, lead author of the paper, told Gizmodo. “This could provide energy.”

“We should stress that this paper does not predict life on the surface of Titan,” Rahm told Digital Trends. “Rather, we provide data in support of an environment that might support prebiotic chemistry, to some extent.” Rahm also noted that if life existed on Titan, it would not be water-based life, and thus unlike anything we know on Earth.

According to the the Digital Trends report, the Cornell team plans to eventually conduct experiments on Earth that are modeled off of Titan’s chemistry to give an even more detailed description of the moon’s potential for life.

(Image: NASA planetary photojournal)

Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.