Understanding Titan's tholins"> Understanding Titan's tholins"/>
Titan's complex  atmosphere

Huygens data confirm that solid particles found in Titan's atmosphere resemble tholins, complex organic molecules created in laboratories.


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Before the 2005 Huygens mission to Titan, ground-based observations, and the first Voyager fly-by, had revealed a nitrogen-and-methane-dominated atmosphere, suitable for the formation of carbon-rich compounds. Additional data from Huygens show that the solid particles in Titan's atmosphere are made of complex organic materials whose properties are very much like those of tholins created in laboratories. However, the amount of carbon measured in the moon's methane appears to indicate that the methane is probably not of biological origin. But that does not exclude the possibility of some kind of life. "We're but one step away from imagining that the environment there could have seen the apparition of life," says Dr François Raulin, Huygens interdisciplinary scientist at the University of Paris.

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