NASA's Cassini Spacecraft captures this view of Saturn's biggest moon, Titan, with Saturn rings in the foreground.
Regards: NASA / JPL / Space Sciences Institute
The dense atmosphere that moves Saturn's largest moon, Titan, can come from burning organic materials in the moon's interior.
Titan captivates scientists for its thick atmosphere – mostly nitrogen gas – and its liquid methane and ethane. Its atmosphere is thicker than Earth's, and it is the only other body of the solar system with large amounts of liquid on its surface.
Complex molecules of Titan, including organic materials, substances that contain carbon make it a promising place to develop life. (And a good place to get to know one day with the help of robot submarines). [Titan Landing Pictures by Huygens Spacecraft]
"Organic chemistry is undoubtedly happening to Titan, so it's an undeniable source of curiosity," says Kelly Miller, a researcher at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and lead author of the new work.
"Since Titan is the only moon in our solar system with a significant atmosphere, scientists have long wondered what its source is," Miller said. "The basic theory is that ammonia ice from comets has been transformed by effects or photochemistry in nitrogen to form the atmosphere of Titan. comets: complex organic material. "
The composition of the atmosphere of Titan does not coincide completely with the types of nitrogen and other materials found in comets. Plus, the 5 percent of Titan's atmosphere, made of methane, raised another question: it reacts quickly to form organic substances that would fall to the surface, so how is it filled?
Miller's team considered data that the spacecraft Rosetta has gathered around the 67P / Churumov-Gerasimenko comet, which reveals that the comet is half ice, quarter rock and a quarter of organic material, according to the statement. These materials, present in the early solar system, could also build Titan.
"Comets and primitive bodies in the outer solar system are really interesting because it is believed to have remained the building blocks of the solar system," Miller said. "These small bodies can be included in larger bodies like Titan, and the dense, rich in organic rocky material can be found in its core."
And, according to Miller's calculations, this type of organic material in comets, if it was at the core of Titan, can produce gases similar to today's Moon atmosphere. The thermal models of the Moon's interior suggest a toast environment that can fill or even generate much of Titan's atmosphere.
"If you cook something, it will produce gas," Miller said. Approximately half of Titan's nitrogen atmosphere and all methane can come from baking organic matter in the warm moon interior, according to the statement.
The new work is described in detail on January 22 in The Astrophysical Journal.