Dr. Delphine Nna Mvondo
UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND BALTIMORE COUNTY
The Center for Space and Sciences Technology (CSST)/NASA GSFC
“Chemistry on Titan’s exotic surface: astrobiological potential of an ocean world”
Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is a unique place of our Solar System, beside Earth, that includes the basic elements of life (C, H, N, O) with the presence of a stable substrate, available energy, and potential for holding a liquid solvent, which identifies it as one of planetary bodies with the highest potential for exobiology. Titan is abode to consider as capable of hosting life but that might significantly differ from life on Earth. Titan’ surface has two main components, a solid icy crust and organic liquid reservoirs. Observations of the surface by Cassini’s instruments unveiled lakes and seas at both poles of Titan. The lakes, fed by tropospheric components from rain out and by stratospheric condensates airfall are composed primarily of liquid methane and ethane accompanied by various minor organic molecules and the solid organic haze particles of Titan’s atmosphere (tholins). Tholins and atmospheric organic condensates also deposit on the solid surface mainly composed of water ice, as observed by the Huygens probe onboard Cassini. The on-coming Dragonfly will be the first mission to Titan to explore the capability for Titan’s surface to support life, as we know it, while increasing our understanding of the different processes that might be involved in the origin of life. Laboratory works aim to investigate the diversity of chemistry on Titan’s surface and its potential for prebiotic chemistry and chemical complexity. I will present and discuss these investigations, as well as the experimental research I have developed and carried out in this context.