Scientists believe they have come up with a concrete model for a new type of methane-based, oxygen-free life form that could prosper in the harsh, icy conditions of Saturn's mysterious freezing moon, Titan.
Reported in the journal Science Advances, the new life form suggests that Titan could haven methane-based, oxygen-free cells composed of small organic nitrogen compounds, which are adept at enduring liquid methane temperatures of 292 degrees below zero.
The researchers have now determined that cells based on methane, which has a much lower freezing point than water, can also give rise to a life form. The hypothetical cell membrane has been named an azotosome.
The university said, “The azotosome is made from nitrogen, carbon and hydrogen molecules known to exist in the cryogenic seas of Titan, but shows the same stability and flexibility that Earth's analogous liposome does.”
Saturn's giant moon Titan is the only other planetary body in the Solar System that has naturally occurring surface liquids – it contains vast seas of methane.
Based on that fact the university's researchers theorized that Titan could harbor methane-based, oxygen-free cells.