Status Report

Ether Compounds Could Work Like DNA on Oily Worlds

By SpaceRef Editor
May 18, 2015
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In the search for life beyond Earth, scientists have justifiably focused on water because all biology as we know it requires this fluid. A wild card, however, is whether alternative liquids can also suffice as life-enablers. For example, Saturn’s frigid moon Titan is awash in inky seas of the hydrocarbon methane.

A new study proposes that molecules called ethers, not used in any genetic molecules on Earth, could fulfill the role of DNA and RNA on worlds with hydrocarbon oceans. These worlds must be a good deal toastier though than Titan, the study found, for plausibly life-like chemistry to take place.

The study, “Solubility of Polyethers in Hydrocarbons at Low Temperatures. A Model for Potential Genetic Backbones on Warm Titans,” was published in the journal Astrobiology and was supported in part by the Exobiology & Evolutionary Biology element of the NASA Astrobiology Program.


SpaceRef staff editor.