158. Reading Skills Comprehension: TITAN AND THE ORIGIN OF LIFE

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The man has always been curious to know about the origin of life. Some have suggested that the life could have been brought to Earth by extra4errestrials I, For example, Eric Von Daniken suggested this in Chariots of the Gods, which he wrote around forty years ago. A similar suggestion was made by Sir Fred Hoyle and Prof. N. Chandra Wickremasinghe, scientists with impeccable credentials, in the 1970s. They propounded the Panspermia (meaning ‘seeds everywhere’) theory which maintains that life evolved out of a primordial soup, which got dispersed into cosmos through comets and meteorites. Life began on Earth when some of this landed on it. However, many mainstream scientists just laugh it out. An obvious reason for this is that the conditions conducive to the existence of life and Its propagation as available on Earth are not there elsewhere; one of these being the temperature factor. But the telemetry data and images of Titan, the Saturn’s largest moon; being sent by the Cassini spacecraft, may change our thinking.

2 Titan, though quite different from our mother planet, Earth, has many special features, which the scientists believe could help in revealing the Origin of life. It is the only moon in our solar system with an atmosphere. And this could be similar to that of Earth when life began here. Thanks to Voyager 1, we already know that the Titan’s atmosphere Predominantly contains nitrogen with a small percentage of methane. But Titan is Surrounded by a thick orange haze which obstructs the view below the dense clouds and therefore no one has been able to know about the surface features’ It could be concealing lakes of methane or ethane running across its surface. It might be having rains of ethane from its smoggy clouds. So rich in organic molecules with a nitrogen atmosphere. Titan could indeed be a very fertile place. However, being 1200 million kilometres away from the Sun, Titan b a very low surface temperature, 180°C, which makes the chances of life on it very slim. But, once upon a time it could have been much warmer, with water flowing across its surface, breeding microorganisms. These could have survived beneath surface. We know that microorganisms are capable of surviving in very harsh environments. And also, after billions of years later, when our sun becomes a red giant, swelling to fifty times of its present size, the temperature of Titan will also rise, becoming more hospitable for the sustenance of life. Earth will then be too hot to inhabit! Carrying the Huygens probe, the joint NASA and European and Italian Space Agencies’ Cassini spacecraft is likely to throw light on some of these intriguing aspects.

During the last week of October, Cassini had a close flyby of Titan which offered the spacecraft an intimate look of the Titan’s surface, hidden behind the thick haze. The images received show the possibility of the presence of lakes, inferred from the dark colour in the radar data. These high-resolution images show the Titan’s surface is possibly more dynamic than previously thought, making the scientists say more confidently that Titan may be geologically alive.

Cassini will complete one more preparatory loop around Titan before releasing the Huygens on the Christmas Day. Thereafter the spacecraft will fly past Titan to receive the messages from Huygens as it disappears through the thick clouds on its journey to the Titan’s surface. What Huygens will see? Nobody can say for sure!                                                                                                                   Science Reporter

1. On the basis of your reading of the passage above, complete the following sentences : (3 marks)

(a) According to Panspermia theory, life_____________

(b)Titan is_____________

(c) Eric Von Daniken suggested in ‘Chariots of the God’ that___________

Complete the table about Titan:  (2 marks)



(c) ______________




1200 million km. away from the sun.

  1. Find words from the passage which mean the same as (3 marks)

 (a) free from mistakes (Para 1)

 (b) concluded/estimated (Para3)                                                          


  1. (a) evolved out of a primordial soup which got dispersed into cosmos
  2. the Saturn’s largest moon
  3. life could have been brought to the earth by the extraterrestrials

    2(a) nitrogen with a small percentage of ethane

      (b) 180°C

      (c) distance

   3(a) impeccable                  (b ) inferred

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