Science News

Cassini Probe Spots Plastic on Titan

The Cassini probe which is examining the components of Saturn’s moon, Titan has spotted propene or propylene. On Earth this molecule consists of six hydrogen atoms and three carbon atoms which is part of many commonly used plastics.

This is the first definitive detection of any plastic molecule outside of Earth and it was made by NASA’s infrared spectrometer on board the Cassini space probe as it was reported in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Titan is dominated by hydrocarbons which are molecules that only contain hydrogen and carbon. The most prominent include methane, which after nitrogen is the most common component of Earth’s atmosphere. Other common components of the moon seen as a result are propane which on Earth is used in portable cooking equipment.

Cassini’s plasma spectrometer has evidence for hydrocarbons with an atomic mass thousands of times heavier than a single hydrogen atom.

This, with a lot of further research could allow us to use this as an additional resource for Earth but in the very distant future.

 

First Published on YSJ – Tue, 01/10/2013 – 19:19

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