Scientists studying Titan’s atmosphere have learned it can create complex molecules, including amino acids and nucleotide bases, often called the building blocks of life. They are the first researchers to show it’s possible to create these molecules without water, suggesting Titan could harbor huge quantities of life’s precursors floating in its atmosphere. It’s a breakthrough that even has implications for the beginning of life on Earth.
Check out this latest image from Cassini, NASA’s orbiting Saturn outpost. It shows the small Saturnian moon Dione in crisp detail, in front of the hazy atmosphere of Titan.
Cassini takes pictures like this all the time, so it’s easy to forget how amazing it is: We have a foil-wrapped 22-foot-tall spacecraft whizzing around the rings and moons of the sixth planet, snapping stunning vistas of a place no human will likely ever visit. And each photo is more amazing than the last.
It may not be faster or cheaper, but the spacecraft headed for Saturn aims to be better than anything we've flung across the solar system.
By Dawn Stover
Posted 07.30.2004 at 3:00 pm 0 Comments
Seven years ago, the largest and most expensive interplanetary probe ever built blasted off from Cape Canaveral. It was loaded with 12 advanced scientific instruments, 72 pounds of plutonium to power them, and a capsule destined to be jettisoned toward the only other object in our solar system protected by a nitrogen-based atmosphere. After launch, the spacecraft began its voyage through the void of space and was promptly forgotten by all but a few scientists and space enthusiasts.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.