Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Secrets Of Titan's Smog

Date:
May 17, 2007
Source:
University College London
Summary:
Researchers have identified molecules in the atmosphere of one of Saturn's moons that are responsible for its smog-like haze. The atmosphere of Titan is of great interest as it is the only one in the solar system remotely like that of Earth, containing a nitrogen-rich mix of gases.

Titan's murky atmosphere.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Researchers have identified molecules in the atmosphere of one of Saturn’s moons that are responsible for its smog-like haze.

The findings, published in the 11 May 2007 issue of ‘Science’, were gathered using the Cassini spacecraft, cooperative mission of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.

The atmosphere of Titan is of great interest as it is the only one in the solar system remotely like that of Earth, containing a nitrogen-rich mix of gases.

Data collected using the Cassini plasma spectrometer and the UK-led sensor on it, the electron spectrometer, have revealed an unexpected cloud of very heavy ions 1000km above Titan’s surface.

These ions are complex organic molecules formed from methane and nitrogen when exposed to intense sunlight, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s) and similar compounds containing nitrogen. They gradually form more and more complex molecules – reaching masses of 8,000 times that of a single hydrogen atom.

These molecules sink towards Titan’s surface, forming a group of compounds named ‘tholins’. Tholins were first observed in a 1953 experiment that demonstrated that organic molecules could be formed from inorganic precursors. As such, they may provide the building blocks from which life forms.

Co-author of the paper Dr Andrew Coates (UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory), said: “It’s humbling to think that, with our instrument at Titan, we may be seeing processes which were at work in Earth’s early atmosphere and which eventually led to life on Earth. It turns out that Titan’s atmosphere is an organic chemical factory on a grand scale. To see such heavy negative ions was a big surprise for us, and is a key finding linking processes in Titan’s atmosphere to the surface of Titan itself – and perhaps to dark, PAH-related deposits on Saturn’s other moons.“


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University College London. "Secrets Of Titan's Smog." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 May 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070516163049.htm>.
University College London. (2007, May 17). Secrets Of Titan's Smog. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070516163049.htm
University College London. "Secrets Of Titan's Smog." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070516163049.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA EDGE: OCO-2 Launch

NASA EDGE: OCO-2 Launch

NASA (July 25, 2014) NASA EDGE webcasts live from Vandenberg AFB for the launch of the Oribiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO) launch. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, July 25, 2014

This Week @ NASA, July 25, 2014

NASA (July 25, 2014) Apollo 11 celebration, Next Giant Leap anticipation, ISS astronauts appear in the House and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space to Ground: Coming and Going

Space to Ground: Coming and Going

NASA (July 25, 2014) One station cargo ship leaves, another arrives, aquatic research and commercial spinoffs. Questions or comments? Use #spacetoground to talk to us. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins