Scientists discover a building block of cells on Saturn’s moon Titan

Saturn and Life on Titan
NASA
Our quest for extraterrestrial life may be closer to bearing fruit. As per recent findings published in Science Advances Magazine, scientists now have a “definitive detection” of vinyl cyanide, described as “the best candidate molecule for the formation of cell membranes/vesicle structures.” And given that cells are the building blocks of life, it’s not too far of an extrapolation to say that the discovery of vinyl cyanide on Titan, one of Saturn‘s moons, could be the discovery of a potential ingredient for, well, life itself.

While scientists have long suspected that Titan might host vinyl cyanide, it was previously naught more than an inference. But now, NASA’s Cassini probe has achieved the “first spectroscopic detection” of the compound. Astronomers used data from the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, or ALMA, to draw their conclusions.

Titan has been a prime candidate for extraterrestrial life for quite some time. After all, the surface of the moon shows lakes, and Titan also features an atmosphere comprised mainly of nitrogen and compounds similar to those found on Earth that are crucial to life. The discovery of vinyl cyanide is yet another reason to continue researching Titan for its life-sustaining possibilities.

“This is a far cry from saying [life] definitely happens on Titan and these cells are involved in some kind of primitive life,” co-author Martin Cordiner, an astrochemist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told The Verge. “But it gives us a starting point in that discussion. If there was going to be life in Titan’s oceans, then it’s plausible vinyl cyanide could be a component of that.”

There is still no absolute proof that cell membranes could ultimately exist on Titan. In order to make that determination, we’d need to send another probe to Saturn’s moon. “There’s been some discussion of maybe sending a boat or something like that to Titan to observe what’s really going on in the lakes,” co-author Maureen Palmer, an astrochemist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told The Verge. “That’d be really cool to see.”

At the end of the day, concluded Cordiner, “As we explore more in the outer Solar System, these moons of the giant planets reveal to us that they are much more fascinating environments than we could have ever imagined. Complex chemistry is not unique to Earth.”

Emerging Tech

In a weighty decision, scientists prepare to redefine the kilogram

Metrologists are meeting at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles to vote on whether to redefine the kilogram as a constant that can be observed in the natural world.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.
Emerging Tech

Stronger than steel, thinner than paper, graphene could be the future of tech

Since its discovery, graphene has set the research world on fire. What exactly is it, though, and what could it mean for the future of tech? Here's everything you need to know about what could be the next supermaterial to take center stage.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Photography

See the National Forests like never before in these awe-inspiring drone videos

What's the difference between a National Park and a National Forest? Drones. With no ban on drones in National Forests -- at least, not yet -- filmmakers have a way to capture the immensity of these locations with stunning results.
Emerging Tech

Google’s balloon internet is coming to Kenya in 2019

In order to bring the internet to those who lack it, a company called Loon is launching balloons into the stratosphere. From more than 12 miles up, these balloons beam connectivity over a large area on the ground.
Emerging Tech

Hikers missing on Mount Fuji could soon find a drone buzzing above their heads

Hikers who go missing while climbing Japan's highest mountain could soon find a drone buzzing above their head. A new system using the flying machines has been set up on Mount Fuji for future search-and-rescue missions.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk receives FCC approval to launch over 7,500 satellites into space

Not surprisingly, SpaceX is thinking big with Starlink, its space-based global broadband network. This week, the company received FCC approval to launch 7,518 satellites into a low-Earth orbit for its satellite internet service.
Cars

The world’s first 3D-printed titanium wheels are so intricate they look fake

HRE Performance Wheels and GE Additive have teamed up to create the world's first 3D-printed titanium wheels. They are not only impressively durable, but extremely lightweight as well.
Emerging Tech

Of all the vape pens in the world, these 5 are the best

Vaping concentrates has become significantly more popular, especially among those that use cannabis for medicinal purposes. But don’t use just any vape pen: we found these five devices to be our favorites in 2018.
Emerging Tech

DJI Mavic 2 Pro vs Mavic 2 Zoom: What’s the real difference?

DJI's Mavic 2 series drones are ready to fly -- but which one is right for you? The Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom are nearly identical save for their cameras. Here's what you need to know about these powerful new UAVs.
Emerging Tech

This startup will sequence your entire genome for free — but there’s a catch

Want to get your DNA sequenced but don’t want to shell out the hundred bucks or so to do so? A new startup called Nebula Genomics offers you the opportunity to have it done for free.
Emerging Tech

Here’s all the best tech gear and gadgetry that survived Shark Tank

The television show "Shark Tank" has churned out quite a few strange, interesting, and downright awesome products -- so we rounded up some of the best ones for your perusal. Enjoy!