Saturday, June 12, 2010

Can there be life in Titan (saturn's moon) - from Hinduism point of view?

Recent articles in and Astrobiology magazine speak about a probability of some non-water based micro organisms brewing in the Titan-chemistry. What has made this speculation possible is the disappearance of atmospheric hydrogen as it flows down and touches the surface of Titan. This may be due to some hitherto unknown chemical phenomena and as such may be a natural process of chemical modification. But Titan, the satellite of Saturn continues to stimulate the excitement of researchers of extra terrestrial life. Titan continues to be the center of focus for research in search of some life form springing from the hydro carbons present in abundance in that tiny companion of Saturn.

The current research may be going in the right direction as it may give some clues on how life could form from such chemicals, because  a similar chemistry is thought to have existed once on the earth before life originated. Thinking from the perspective of Hindu Thought, Saturn is  associated with giving life! As per Nakshathra sooktha of Yajur Veda, the lord of Saturn is Prajapathi who is the progenitor of life and lord of Life.

Among the planets Mercury and Saturn occupy a unique place as denoted by the swaras of Saptha swaras. The 7 planets are identified with the 7 notes of carnatic music. In fact they are the basic notes of Sama veda. A previous article on this can be read here:-

The connection between sapta swaras and colours.

Of the swaras, sa and pa are the basic ones. Mercury is identified with sa- swara and saturn is identified with pa-swara. Mercury is noted for buddhi, knowledge and saturn for carrying out karmic baggage. Man is identified with these two issues only. He is a thinker and is endowed with knowledge, that is why he is known as manushya or man. He takes birth only to pay out his karma. Therefore Mercury and Saturn as conceptual entities play a role in manifestation of man. According to Hindu thought currently the manifestation of man for working out his karmic baggage (Garba gathi) is centered on our planet earth.

There may have been many galaxies with habitable zones. But life is being created or gets manifest in a central zone which is personified as the centre of a lotus flower. This flower is connected with a life giving umbilical cord of the Creator Brahman, Lord Narayana. The Four faced Brahma sitting on top of this centre of the lotus signifies the stem of creation. There is life activity in the stretch of the entire cord that leads to the center of the lotus.

There are whorls of petals surrounding this center in the form of many galaxies in many rows with one whorl encircling and rotating around the other. The entire number of rows extend on all sides covering trillions of years. But life keeps happening only in the seat of Brahma which is located northward - towards the direction of Saptha Rishi Mandala or Ursa Major. The earth is in the middle of this stem. Above us there are 7 realms of existence peopled with jeevas who have attained better status due to good karma. Below us also there are 7 realms of life which are attained by jeevas of bad karma.

At any given time in the large Time scale of 100 years of Four faced Brahma, (equivalent to 8.64 billion solar years X 360 X100 = 77,760 trillion years) life will be seen for a duration of 4.32 billion years in the life stem of Brahma seated on the lotus. Currently 2.16 billion years are over since first life form appeared on earth. Another 2.16 billion will have to go before the total wipe out of life. This coincides with the close encounter with Andromeda galaxy - which is the closest time by which it can disturb our galaxy and our solar system.

After that for the next 4.32 billion years there will be no life seen anywhere. But the galaxies will keep moving. The stem of lotus of Brahma keeps moving. After that (i.e., after 6.48 billion years from now onwards) new life will spring in the then stem of lotus having Brahma giving life-sap. Our earth would be gone by then. New galactic alignments would be in place then. But by then, saturn's Titan may have progressed that far in space - safely and carrying the prebiotic condition for life - which by then would have sprung up the kind of life we know and where man can again be born to shed his ever continuing karmic baggage! The location of this place of life can be calculated by converting the 6.48 billion years in light year distances in the direction of Mrigasheersha (Orion). (Mrigasheesrsha is the direction towards which Brahma's seat is moving. This will be explained in another article)

Looking back since Big bang times, the time between 2.16 billion years and 6.48 billion years ago had been the time of no life. There had existed life for a period of 4. 32 billion years before that (that is some 6.48 billion years ago from now) But we have no trace of it. We can not find it also. If at all we can look back through our gadgets at that period backward in time, the imprints of life would have been gone and modified and had become non traceable.

As per Hindu thought, big bang signifies no-life period of Brahma -Kalpa after which life got manifest once. Our current times is the second manifestation of life since Big Bang. But then life has been created 18,000 times in the past. Big Bang is only a recent phenomenon.

To have the split up,
A Brahma Kalpa has a day of 4.32 billion years of life activity and a night of 4.32 billion years of no life anywhere.
Currently 2.16 billion years of life has happened.
Before that for 4.32 billion years - no life (Brhama's night kalpa)
Before that for 4.32 billion years - Life activity was there (Brahma's day kalpa)
Before that for 4.32 billion years - no life (Night kalpa)
Adding up these we get 15.12 billion years which is the period since Big Bang.

Looking at future, the seed of life may be carried through Saturn (its satellite Titan).
The Pre-biotic chemistry that is happening in Titan may continue and Brahma's stem may carry this Titan along with (inspite of loss of life activity in earth).
By the time 6. 48 billion years are over, the Titan will become the Prajapathi of that era with new life getting manifest facilitating environment for man to be born. Thus goes the system of Brahma. The players are the same. The actors (we) are the same. But the venue (arangam) will be new and different.

- jayasree

Some related links:-


Strange Discovery on Titan Leads to Speculation of Alien Life

By Charles Q. Choi Contributor

posted: 07 June 2010
09:44 am ET

New findings have roused a great deal of hoopla over the possibility of life on Saturn's moon Titan, which some news reports have further hyped up as hints of extraterrestrials.

However, scientists also caution that aliens might have nothing to do with these findings.

All this excitement is rooted in analyses of chemical data returned by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. One study suggested that hydrogen was flowing down through Titan's atmosphere and disappearing at the surface. Astrobiologist Chris McKay at NASA Ames Research Center speculated this could be a tantalizing hint that hydrogen is getting consumed by life. "It's the obvious gas for life to consume on Titan, similar to the way we consume oxygen on Earth," McKay said.

Another study investigating hydrocarbons on Titan's surface found a lack of acetylene, a compound that could be consumed as food by life that relies on liquid methane instead of liquid water to live.

"If these signs do turn out to be a sign of life, it would be doubly exciting because it would represent a second form of life independent from water-based life on Earth," McKay said.

However, NASA scientists caution that aliens might not be involved at all.

"Scientific conservatism suggests that a biological explanation should be the last choice after all non-biological explanations are addressed," said Mark Allen, principal investigator with the NASA Astrobiology Institute Titan team. "We have a lot of work to do to rule out possible non-biological explanations. It is more likely that a chemical process, without biology, can explain these results."

"Both results are still preliminary," McKay told

To date, methane-based life forms are only speculative, with McKay proposing a set of conditions necessary for these kinds of organisms on Titan in 2005. Scientists have not yet detected this form of life anywhere, although there are liquid-water-based microbes on Earth that thrive on methane or produce it as a waste product.

On Titan, where temperatures are around minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 179 degrees Celsius), any organisms would have to use a substance that is liquid as its medium for living processes. Water itself cannot do, because it is frozen solid on Titan's surface. The list of liquid candidates is very short -- liquid methane and related molecules such as ethane. Previous studies have found Titan to have lakes of liquid methane.

Missing hydrogen?

The dearth of hydrogen Cassini detected is consistent with conditions that could produce methane-based life, but do not conclusively prove its existence, cautioned researcher Darrell Strobel, a Cassini interdisciplinary scientist based at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., who authored the paper on hydrogen appearing online in the journal Icarus.

Strobel looked at densities of hydrogen in different parts of the atmosphere and the surface. Previous models from scientists had predicted that hydrogen molecules, a byproduct of ultraviolet sunlight breaking apart acetylene and methane molecules in the upper atmosphere, should be distributed fairly evenly throughout the atmospheric layers.

Strobel's computer simulations suggest a hydrogen flow down to the surface at a rate of about 10,000 trillion trillion molecules per second.

"It's as if you have a hose and you're squirting hydrogen onto the ground, but it's disappearing," Strobel said. "I didn't expect this result, because molecular hydrogen is extremely chemically inert in the atmosphere, very light and buoyant. It should 'float' to the top of the atmosphere and escape."

Strobel said it is not likely that hydrogen is being stored in a cave or underground space on Titan. An unknown mineral could be acting as a catalyst on Titan's surface to help convert hydrogen molecules and acetylene back to methane.

Although Allen commended Strobel, he noted "a more sophisticated model might be needed to look into what the flow of hydrogen is."

Consumed acetylene?

Scientists had expected the sun's interactions with chemicals in the atmosphere to produce acetylene that falls down to coat the Titan surface. But Cassini mapped hydrocarbons on Titan's surface, it detected no acetylene on the surface, findings appearing online in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Instead of alien life on Titan, Allen said one possibility is that sunlight or cosmic rays are transforming the acetylene in icy aerosols in the atmosphere into more complex molecules that would fall to the ground with no acetylene signature.

In addition, Cassini detected an absence of water ice on the Titan surface, but loads of benzene and another as-yet-unidentified material, which appears to be an organic compound. The researchers that a film of organic compounds are covering the water ice that makes up Titan's bedrock. This layer of hydrocarbons is at least a few millimeters to centimeters thick, but possibly much deeper in some places.

"Titan's atmospheric chemistry is cranking out organic compounds that rain down on the surface so fast that even as streams of liquid methane and ethane at the surface wash the organics off, the ice gets quickly covered again," said Cassini team scientist Roger Clark based at the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver. "All that implies Titan is a dynamic place where organic chemistry is happening now."

Speculation 'Jumping the Gun'

All this speculation "is jumping the gun, in my opinion," Allen said.

"Typically in the search for the existence of life, one looks for the presence of evidence -- say, the methane seen in the atmosphere of Mars, which can't be made by normal photochemical processes," Allen added. "Here we're talking about absence of evidence rather than presence of evidence -- missing hydrogen and acetylene -- and often times there are many non-life processes that can explain why things are missing."

These findings are "still a long way from evidence of life," McKay said. "But it could be interesting."


Exotic Life Could Sprout From Titan Chemistry

By Clara Moskowitz
Astrobiology Magazine

posted: 25 June 2009
08:33 am ET

If life exists on Titan, it's anyone's guess what that life looks like.

Saturn's largest moon is not a good candidate for Earth-like life because it usually lacks liquid water on the surface. But one of Titan's most promising features is the presence of lakes filled with liquid hydrocarbons, or molecules made of hydrogen and carbon, such as methane and ethane. These lakes were recently spotted by the Cassini-Huygens mission, a NASA/European Space Agency/Italian Space Agency spacecraft currently in orbit around Saturn. Titan is now the only body in our solar system other than Earth known to have liquid on its surface.

A new study has found that, depending on their particular make-up and volume, the lakes on Titan could be good hosts for a certain type of prebiotic-like chemistry that could lead to life. High-energy cosmic rays blast down on the lakes and could spark reactions that create more complex molecules.

"I found that the result is very dependent on the chemical composition of the lakes," says Tetsuya Tokano, a planetary scientist at the University of Cologne in Germany and author of a paper in the March 2009 issue of the journal Astrobiology detailing the study results. "If certain chemicals are missing, then the lake could freeze or dry out. But if the lake is composed of a mixture of ethane, methane and nitrogen, the lake can exist for many years and provide a medium for prebiotic-like chemistry."

Though Cassini RADAR images photographed a number of hydrocarbon lakes in the polar region of Titan, the spacecraft was unable to determine how deep the lakes are or what they're made of.

Based on what is known, Tokano used computer numerical models to analyze many possible sets of lake conditions to find which are most promising for prebiotic-like chemistry and possible development of alien life.

He found that the ability of Titan's lakes to harbor biochemistry depends not just on their composition, but on their size. If a lake is too shallow it might evaporate before any significant developments can take place. However, if a lake is too deep, it might have a bottom layer that doesn't mix well with upper layers, and important chemicals could be sequestered away.

New Kinds of Alien Life

Much about Titan and the possibility of life there is still unknown. "If there is life on Titan it would be very different from that on Earth," Tokano says. "And we don't know if such life is possible at all. It's just speculation."

Titan may be a good candidate for silicon-based life, if it exists, because the moon has the low temperatures, lack of oxygen, and lack of liquid water thought to be necessary for this kind of life.

Silicon-based life would use the element silicon to build its cells, rather than carbon as life on Earth does. Because silicon is heavier than carbon and bonds differently with other elements, these types of cells would probably look and function differently than cells familiar to us. Instead of using water as a solvent, silicon-based life could use another substance. Some scientists have proposed that the hydrocarbon mixtures in Titan's lakes could act as a solvent for exotic forms of life.

Mysterious Moon

Many questions remain about Titan's lakes, including what they might look like up close. "Some are as big as [Michigan's] Great Lakes," Tokano says. "I don't know the exact color, but a deep lake would be darker than a shallow lake, and perhaps the color is not blue."

He and other scientists would love more data to help solve these riddles. They have been pushing for a dedicated spacecraft to visit Titan and send back data from the lakes. So far, no firm plans exist, although NASA and ESA are studying a possible mission concept. "I hope that there will be future probes, but this may take 20 or 30 years," Tokano says. "I would like to know the depth of the lakes, and the exact chemical composition. In principle, if we have a future mission to Titan, a probe which lands on the lake itself, it should be possible."

Studying the chemistry of Titan's lakes could be significant not just in the search for life beyond Earth, but also in the quest to learn about the origin life on our own planet, Tokano says. Learning whether certain conditions on other worlds are conducive to prebiotic chemistry could help narrow down the possibilities, or exclude conditions that clearly couldn't lead to the carbon-based life we have on Earth. "If you compare the conditions of Earth and Titan, we can maybe find the difference in the evolution of prebiotic chemistry, and discover which conditions are necessary," Tokano says

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