back to article Titan's salty waters scupper the chances for alien life

Astro-boffins have come up with new and compelling evidence that the ocean buried inside Saturn’s largest moon Titan is probably as salty as Earth’s Dead Sea, sadly making it an unlikely location for alien life. Researchers found that Titan's ice shell, which overlies a very salty ocean, varies in thickness around the moon, …

  1. ravenviz Silver badge


    Moons are made of cheese so there must be a Titanic dairy herd hidden somewhere.

    1. Faux Science Slayer

      Methane exists through the Universe !

      Methane on Earth is NOT finite decay of interned organic matter in the mantle, or in the digestive tracks of termites, cattle and humans. Hydrocarbons exist throughout the Universe as a natural series of organic compounds, formed under high heat and pressure. On Earth, fission energy producing heat and elemental atoms, and pressure in the mantle produce these Hydrocarbons, see "Fracturing the Fossil Fuel Fable" at the FauxScienceSlayer site.

      Titan has a surface temperature of -180C (-300F) and enough solar energy to decompose the 5% Methane atmosphere (95% Nitrogen) in less than 10 million years. The fact that there are liquid Methane seas, Methane clouds and frozen Methane polar caps is proof that there is some ongoing Methane, and likely Ethane production mechanism similar to Earth's. The presence of "cyro-volcanoes" is further proof of internal fission providing energy independent of the minuscule solar input. There is NO 'peak' oil problem on Earth or on Titan.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: Methane exists through the Universe !

        Wow. You're completely bugshit bonkers. Terrifying.

  2. NoneSuch

    We won't know for sure until we go there.

  3. xperroni

    Not Quite Dead Sea

    [T]he ocean inside Saturn’s largest moon Titan is as salty as Earth’s Dead Sea, making it an unlikely location for alien life.

    Then again, there is some life to be found on Earth's Dead Sea...

    1. TimeMaster T

      Re: Not Quite Dead Sea

      except that the microbes are only found near fresh water vents in the floor, the rest of the area is dead.

      I won't believe there isn't life on Titan (and Mars, Europa, Venus, etc.) until someone looks in EVERY possible habitat. including deep crust or somewhere in the Ice sheets that cover the moon.

      (For Venus it might be in the upper atmosphere. There are those weird UV absorption patterns in the clouds no one has explained yet.)

      But if there is one thing that I have learned over the years , its that if there is a niche that can support life, it will.

      1. xperroni

        Re: Not Quite Dead Sea

        except that the microbes are only found near fresh water vents in the floor, the rest of the area is dead.

        Granted, but at first we didn't know about those either. Who knows what might be hidden under Titan's surface?

  4. Major Ebaneezer Wanktrollop

    It's full of herring

    'Biologists have linked a mysterious, underwater farting sound to bubbles coming out of a herring's anus. No fish had been known to emit sound from its anus nor to be capable of producing such a high-pitched noise.'


  5. oblivion

    Definition of alien life

    ...Is that it is alien and should not be judged as being possible by what we know of life on Earth. Saying that life can't exist in there just because it's salty is like the famously wrong quotes like: "Man will never fly", "I think there is a world market for maybe 5 computers", and of course "640K ought to be enough for anyone".

    1. wobblycogs

      Re: Definition of alien life

      You are correct in asserting that just because it's very salty doesn't mean there isn't life but at the same time from what we know of life it seems to make it less likely. Earth is a surprisingly hospitable place for life and yet after 3.6 billion years very little has managed to adapt itself to live in very salty water. You could argue that the reason for this is that all life on earth, at the cellular level, uses (very) broadly the same building blocks and perhaps those blocks can't be adapted for highly salty environments. The problem then is why hasn't weird and wonderful types of salty-environment-loving life appeared on earth?

      When we get out into the stars (or even perhaps just the solar system) my guess is that we will occasionally find life on moons / planets that aren't even close to habitable for earth life but they will be few and far between compared to life on earth like planets. Shame we won't live to find out if that's correct.

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: Definition of alien life

        after 3.6 billion years very little has managed to adapt itself to live in very salty water

        Alternative explanation: very salty water on earth is a short-lived and unstable ecological niche. It normally arises when salt in a body of water is concentrated by evaporation because it's cut off from the planet's oceans. Over geological time it will prove short-lived. Its limited water input will fail and it will dry into a salt pan and then become a stratum of rock salt. Or a narrow channel will open wider and dilute the very salty water down much closer to the norm of Earth's oceans.

        Life has certainly adapted as the oceans gradually became saltier without huge short-term fluctuation. Most of the salt ever released from rock by weathering, resides in today's oceans. When life was new, they were almost freshwater.

        Another alternative explanation. Once life works out how to do something fairly well, that mechanism tends to persist. It's rare for a second way to do the same thing to evolve. For example, the DNA/RNA codes are much the same in the wierdest and oldest archaea and in all plants and animals. Maybe because life here evolved in (almost) fresh water, it is not well suited to very saline water and struggles to adapt sufficiently.

        On Titan, where all the "ocean" is all highly saline, evolution may have taken different paths of which we know nothing.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: why hasn't weird and wonderful types of salty-environment-loving life appeared on earth

        A good question. A possible answer is because the basic building block thing is a bit of a winner-takes-it-all: if there is already a form of life (== the tree formed by of all cellular things that ever existed on the planet, sharing the (probable pre-RNA/) RNA/DNA origins) then it can actively propagate itself and out-compete (in utilising sources of free energy and building blocks) any potential new life form still struggling to get the basic design working, utilising nothing but a very very long random walk to find the solution.

        Just guessing though.

  6. Grikath Silver badge


    Could be me, but there's a slew of present-day procaryotes that would quite happily live and thrive under Titan's icy surface, under the conditions described.

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      Re: ummmm...

      Yes, halophiles.

  7. psychonaut

    there's klingons on the starboard bow

    maybe its not hospitable to life as we currently know it.....

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: there's klingons on the starboard bow

      And in th emean time, nobody is looking for super-intelligent shades of the colour blue

  8. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

    looking for signs of methane outgassing

    My wife is pretty good at that. She walks into the room, sniffs, and then shoots a menacing glance at me.

    1. Dinky Carter

      Re: looking for signs of methane outgassing

      Get a dog then.

  9. rizb


    Needs better illustration.

    May I suggest this?

  10. Richard Boyce

    Elements are not salts

    "mixed with dissolved salts like sulphur, sodium and potassium."

    If you change "like" to "containing", it will make sense.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why it is a salty sea

    It lies beyond the Goldilocks zone of the Sun and at the distance at which it is located prevents heat from the Parent Star and the Host planet to up well Gulf Stream like convectional currents to bring in fresh water from Poles and sediment salts from the brine. Neither is the rotational speed of the satellite enough that there a convectional Atmosphere to drive sea currents.

    Guess what if earth happens to loose any of these life supporting factors life would be difficult to sustain on earth.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Humans have progressed enough to made disasters Huge enough to send the planet into a Nightmarish Hell for future

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How to add More fuel to Real Estate Wars on Earth

    Tug Saturn's Moon Titan and plug it in as earths 2nd moon

  14. DerekCurrie Bronze badge

    Wondering Where The Methane Comes From?!

    Titan has:

    1) Above Ground Liquid Methane Lakes.

    2) Underground Liquid Methane Lakes.

    3) Liquid Methane Soaked Soil.

    4) Liquid Methane Tides Due To Saturn's Massive Gravity.

    Where does the methane in the air come from? Is that a typo?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wondering Where The Methane Comes From?!

      > Where does the methane in the air come from?

      It used to have cows but they all moved to Sedna 2.74 billion years ago.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Wondering Where The Methane Comes From?!

      Methan is to Titan like bacon is to Burger King?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How to get the piece of real estate within Human reach

    Step 1 : Create a Temporary Wormhole from point A(Titan present location) to point b (Earths orbit). Mark coordinates of worm hole and set up the frame work of the worm hole

    Stem 2 : Create a Massive Solar Flare, once the tongue of the solar flare powers the Point B of the Worm Hole framework and it builds the worm hole framework and sucks up the target object from Point A to Point B. It then closes the Stargate.

    Caveat : Take care that it does not disturb the Titans Specific Gravity and vibrational constant that Titan itself does not get dissolved into plasma

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: How to get the piece of real estate within Human reach

      A chrono-synclastic infundibulum has been the oldest method for traveling to Titan, it has been in use since 1959 when Kurt Vonnegut Jr wrote about it in The Sirens of Titan.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How to get the piece of real estate within Human reach

        He did not elaborate on the technological means

  16. Martin Budden
  17. Mercury

    Why hate salty balls, when we can distill its Water

    Minimum Two speedy moons would be required to increase the angular drive momentum of the Earth moon system that they move to outer edge of Goldilocks zone and earth does not lose its temperate climate and return to Jurassic age. due to Global warming

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rather than thinking about sucking up Jovian and Saturnian Methane to satisfy earths Energy needs, I would focus on constructive debate

    rather than unfortunate suggestive anus-gazing perverted organic source methane hunting bozos.

    It will only turn Earth into a CO2 rich planet. It is 100% clear there is no other organic life comparable to Humans anywhere in the Solar

    System, whether it was planted here from Space or Aboriginal is completely irrelevant

    One technique to increase Earths Angular momentum and raise the orbit around the Sun was to drink more Solar flare energy and push

    against the Tidal pull of the Sun; rather than getting locked out like Venus and Mercury, but that is too slow, It is difficult to perceive humans

    can build a Earth scale Space Warp Worm Hole to prevent earths loss of angular momentum, and become tidally locked like Venus and the stars gravitational field. The other is to borrow a moon from nearby Giant planets, or Ceres, Makemake from Asteroid belt, to

    increase the speed of the of rotation and raise the earth higher in orbit around the Sun.

    (The solar Flares are several 100 to 1000 times the size of earth and if condensed into matter or angular momentum could help in raising

    earths orbit around the Sun); And can be Harnessed by Planting 100 Km High Tower Collectors at the poles which also drink and inject the

    Solar Flare energy directly 1000 km down into Earths core

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two words...

    "Puppet Masters".

    Be very afraid.

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