UCL News


UCL in the News: 'Earth No 2' lies in deep freeze waiting to be born

17 February 2008

Jonathan Leake, 'The Sunday Times' Titan, the deep-frozen moon of Saturn, is emerging as the most likely place in the solar system for new life to evolve, according to scientists who have been studying its atmosphere and surface chemistry.

"About 4-5 billion years from now Earth will have been engulfed by the sun but the frozen outer planets are likely to be much warmer, including Titan," said Professor Andrew Coates, of the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory.

"The organic chemistry on its surface is already very similar to what we think existed on Earth before life developed. When it gets warmer, life will have a good chance to get going," he said. …

Last week leading planetary scientists from Europe and America gathered at the European Space Agency's technical centre in Noordwijk, Holland, to examine the data and draw up plans to send a new mission to the Saturn system around 2016.

Coates, who was among them, said it was becoming clear that Titan was far more than a simple moon: for example, it is bigger than Mercury, the innermost planet of the solar system. …