We long ago declared Saturn's moon Titan the one of the awesomest moons in the solar system (though this assertion was controversial). Granted, it’s freezing cold, but its Earth-like features have set astrobiologists dreaming and made it one of the most popular extraplanetary settings in science fiction. And a new discovery about this infamous lunar body further suggests that Titan has the capacity to produce life.Researchers studying data from the European Space Agency’s Huygens probe have reported that Titan’s atmosphere contains a faint electrical field, opening the door to the possibility of lightening strikes on the planet’s surface:
"As of now, lightning activity has not been observed in Titan's atmosphere," said lead author Juan Antonio Morente of the University of Granada in Spain. But, he said, the signals that have been detected "are an irrefutable proof for the existence of electric activity."
The discovery is a significant one since many biochemists theorize that lightning triggered the reactions necessary for the creation of life on Earth. Since Titan’s atmosphere contains chemicals similar to those in Earth’s prebiotic astmosphere, it increases the possibility that life could form on Titan or in other parts of the universe:
"I look at Titan as a big, frozen, prebiotic casserole," [Jeffrey] Bada [of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography] said, referring to the state before the emergence of life. "The idea that life could be widespread in the universe, I think, is very credible."
Electricity Found on Saturn Moon—Could It Spark Life? [National Geographic]