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Methane based World: Creation of an azotosome

representation of a 9-nanometer azotosome

A new type of methane-based, oxygen-free life form that can metabolize and reproduce similar to life on Earth has been modeled by a team of Cornell University researchers.

Methane lakes on Saturnmoon Titan - NASA / JPL-Caltech / USGS

Methane lakes on Saturnmoon Titan – NASA / JPL-Caltech / USGS

Taking a simultaneously imaginative and rigidly scientific view, chemical engineers and astronomers offer a template for life that could thrive in a harsh, cold world – specifically Titan, the giant moon of Saturn. A planetary body awash with seas not of water, but of liquid methane, Titan could harbor methane-based, oxygen-free cells in an atmosphere called an azotosome.

Their theorized cell membrane, composed of small organic nitrogen compounds and capable of functioning in liquid methane temperatures of 292 degrees below zero, is published in Science Advances.