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Astrobiology. 2005 Aug;5(4):560-7.

Biologically enhanced energy and carbon cycling on Titan?

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  • 1Department of Geological Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164, USA.


With the Cassini-Huygens Mission in orbit around Saturn, the large moon Titan, with its reducing atmosphere, rich organic chemistry, and heterogeneous surface, moves into the astrobiological spotlight. Environmental conditions on Titan and Earth were similar in many respects 4 billion years ago, the approximate time when life originated on Earth. Life may have originated on Titan during its warmer early history and then developed adaptation strategies to cope with the increasingly cold conditions. If organisms originated and persisted, metabolic strategies could exist that would provide sufficient energy for life to persist, even today. Metabolic reactions might include the catalytic hydrogenation of photochemically produced acetylene, or involve the recombination of radicals created in the atmosphere by ultraviolet radiation. Metabolic activity may even contribute to the apparent youth, smoothness, and high activity of Titan's surface via biothermal energy.

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