Cassini finds propylene on Saturn’s moon Titan

Nasa's Cassini spacecraft looks toward the night side of Saturn's largest moon and sees sunlight scattering through the periphery of Titan's atmosphere and forming a ring of colour.
Image credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Date:2 October 2013 Tags:, , ,

The Cassini spacecraft has detected propylene, a chemical used to make food-storage containers, car bumpers and other consumer products, on Saturn’s moon Titan.

This is the first definitive detection of the plastic ingredient on any moon or planet, other than Earth.

A small amount of propylene was identified in Titan’s lower atmosphere by Cassini’s composite infrared spectrometer (CIRS). This instrument measures the infrared light, or heat radiation, emitted from Saturn and its moons in much the same way our hands feel the warmth of a fire.

Propylene is the first molecule to be discovered on Titan using CIRS. By isolating the same signal at various altitudes within the lower atmosphere, researchers identified the chemical with a high degree of confidence. Details are presented in a paper in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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