Skip to comments.Cassini Finds Organic Material on Titan
Posted on 04/27/2005 2:15:04 AM PDT by Triggerhippie
Cassini Finds Organic Material on Titan
Tue Apr 26, 9:43 AM ET
Add to My Yahoo! Science - AP
PASADENA, Calif. - A close flyby of Saturn's big moon Titan by the international Cassini spacecraft revealed an upper atmosphere brimming with complex organic material, a finding that could hold clues to how life arose on Earth, scientists said Monday.
Photo AP Photo
Cassini flew within 638 miles of Titan's frozen surface on April 16 and discovered a hydrocarbon-laced upper atmosphere.
Titan's atmosphere is mainly made up of nitrogen and methane, the simplest type of hydrocarbon. But scientists were surprised to find complex organic material in the latest flyby. Because Titan is extremely cold about minus 290 degrees scientists expected the organic material to condense and rain down to the surface.
"We are beginning to appreciate the role of the upper atmosphere in the complex carbon cycle that occurs on Titan," said Hunter Waite, a professor at the University of Michigan.
Scientists believe Titan's atmosphere may be similar to that of the primordial Earth and studying it could provide clues to how life began.
The $3.3 billion Cassini mission, funded by NASA and the European and Italian space agencies, was launched in 1997 and took seven years to reach Saturn. The European Huygens probe carried aboard Cassini was released on Dec. 24 and plunged to the surface of Titan in January.
On the Net:
Titan flyby images: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov
Didn't Sagan say that that's what was there?
At last! The source of the mysterious finger in the Wendy's chili!
That is so vague and unsubstantiated a statement, I am surprised it was released. Define the "complex organic material." A carbon based....what?
Further, it seems the "discovery" was sent to the AP via some professor at the University of Michigan, not NASA.
I predict this will turn out the same as that rock they discovering in Antartica, that had "worm trail fossils in it, but the rock really was a meteor from Mars--so there is life on Mars! GET IT!"
Not vague, just inconclusive. They don't have enough evidence to blame it on the dog; just that someone out there had too many beans.
Something tells me we just found D.B. Cooper!
Organic Materials Spotted High Above Titan's Surface
April 25, 2005
(Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
see link for extended release
Titan's Upper Atmosphere: A "factory" of hydrocarbons
April 25, 2005
During its closest flyby of Saturn's moon Titan on April 16, the Cassini spacecraft came within 1,025 kilometers (637 miles) of the moon's surface and found that the outer layer of the thick, hazy atmosphere is brimming with complex hydrocarbons.
This figure shows a mass spectrum of Titan's ionosphere near 1,200 kilometers (746 miles) above its surface. The mass range covered goes from hydrogen at 1 atomic mass unit per elementary charge (Dalton) to 99 Daltons. This mass range includes compounds with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 carbons as the base structure (as indicated in the figure label). The identified compounds include multiple carbon molecules and carbon-nitrogen bearing species as well. The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The ion and neutral mass spectrometer team is based at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. (underscore added)
What a great laugh to start the day!
I think that maybe the flag that Sheila Jackson Lee said was put on Mars was blown off and landed here.
Organic compounds are not necessarily biological compounds, though most biological molecules are organic. Organic just means a molecule containing hydrogen and carbon.
I'll bet you could find hydrocarbons on the Moon if you drilled deep enough.
"My God ... it's full of stars."
Vonnegut said there is much, much more. :o)
Well, I suspect switching to ethanol, biodiesel, or even solar-cell and electolysis generated hydrogen will be cheaper than crude from Titan, but your joke has a point: this gives a big boost to the non-biological origin of petroleum theory.
So they think they will find God on that moon?
What kind of matter isn't organic.
"organic" material could really nothing but simple proteins.
Attempt no landings there...
I was thinking that maybe now we know where all those socks disappear to...
LOL - Dirty socks probably emit all kinds of organic gases.
All these worlds are yours except_______(Europa)
Do not attempt any landings there.
Use them together
Use them in peace.
This just in from Kalifornia, Organic material found on Uranus.
Thanks Molly! This spacecraft just amazes me!
Thanks for the NASA release info. But a "discovery" of hydrocarbons in an atmosphere is hardly a cause for excitement. It is another example of "over reach" for even making this a news release at all, since a casual reader would assume it offers proof of life discovered elsewhere in the cosmos. It does not.
Maybe two or three, glycine and alanine and possibly serine(from what the mass data indicates). What is strange though is that the gross attributes of Titan's atmosphere are described as methane and nitrogen. Yet the data shows single carbon species density as 1/100th of that of double carbon species.
Amino acid scale values:
Interesting. And quick work too!
I also can't figure out what non-ionized gases would have masses from 12-15D
I'm lazy. I used the internet for the calculations.
I dunno if I'm just in a cranky mood lately but I swear there must be some kind of brain-wasting epidemic going around these past few days.
I, for one, welcome our new hydrocarbonite overlords.
I took a quick look around and didn't find anything helpful.
Doubtless there's a branch of the Kennedy clan there ingesting complex carbohydrates, and emitting methane.
I just got the DVD!
Otherwise, I would have forgotten the rest of the line! :)
I was not fully engaged when I noted the possibilities of the amino acids. They most certainly would only be found in trace amounts. They have high melting points. DUH. I was just concentrating on the molecular weight. And the mass spectrometer was measuring the ionosphere. This would also seem to preclude highly polar organics. Benzene might be a possible species.
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