Some people think that astrobiologists, who study life elsewhere in the universe, have nothing to do...yet. But nothing could be further from the truth. The search for life on other planets begins with research, the domain of NASA's Astrobiology Institute, which is, among other things, studying the strange yet familiar landscape of Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Composed of ice and maintaining a nitrogen atmosphere and rivers of liquid methane, Titan still shares many geological and natural features with Earth, from hills and valleys to similar weather patterns.
"Titan is so cool, because its atmosphere is really similar to what we think early earth was like," says Denver Museum of Nature & Science astrobiology research assistant Julia DeMarines. "It's a huge mystery, a crazy anomaly in the solar system; it has a crazy, different chemistry than Earth's, so it's like a familiar place, yet a really strange one. But it could give us clues to how life on Earth started."
The institute's Titan research team descends this week on the DMNS for a confab to share the findings of various sub-teams, but the museum will also host an evening of public outreach: a panel discussion called Exploring Titan for Clues to the Origins of Life. Team leaders Christophe Sotin, Robert West and Thomas Orlando will join host David Grinspoon -- the museum's own astrobiology genius -- to explain their research and answer questions.
Exploring Titan starts at 7 p.m. in Ricketson Auditorium at the DMNS, 2001 Colorado Boulevard; reserve tickets, $12 to $15, online at dmns.org, or visit the Facebook event page for information.
Wed., April 24, 7-9 p.m., 2013