Cassini probe sees plastic ingredient on Titan moon
Date published: 07th October 2013
The discovery, made by Cassini's infrared spectrometer, is reported in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
"This chemical is all around us in everyday life, strung together in long chains to form a plastic called polypropylene," said Conor Nixon, a Nasa planetary scientist from the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center. A classic example would be the plastic boxes used to store food in kitchens worldwide.
Titan is dominated by hydrocarbons - principally methane, which after nitrogen is the most common component of the atmosphere.
Sunlight drives reactions that break apart the methane, allowing the fragments to join up and form even bigger molecules.
Other common species seen at the moon as a result are propane, which on Earth is used in portable cooking equipment, and ethane, which is the raw material for another ubiquitous plastic - polyethylene.
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