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Bath tubs around Titan's lakes can be made of foreign crystals

A false-colored, near-infrared view of the Titan's northern hemisphere, collected by NASA's spacecraft in Cassini, shows the moon's sea and lakes. Orange areas near some of them may be deposits of organic evaporative minerals left behind by liquid hydrocarbon runoff. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute

Saturn's moon Titan can be released with strange, uneven minerals, according to new research presented here.

Researchers recreating Titan-esque conditions in their laboratory have discovered new compounds and minerals that are not on the earth, including a co-crystal made of solid acetylene and butane.

Acetylene and butane are on the earth as gases and are commonly used for fuel and fuel fuel. On Titan, with extremely cold temperatures, acetylene and butane are solid and combine to form crystals. The new research was found.

The new mineral may be responsible for bath rings suspected to exist around Titan's hydrocarbon lakes, according to Morgan Cable of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, which will present the new research Monday at the Astrobiology Science Conference 201


Titan's lakes are filled with liquid hydrocarbons. Previous research using images and data collected during the Cassini mission has shown that lakes in the lunar dry areas near the equator contain signs of vaporized material remaining on a bathtub.

To create titanium-like conditions in the laboratory, the researchers started with a custom-built cryostat, a device to keep things cool. They filled the cryostat with liquid nitrogen to lower the temperature. They then heated the chamber slightly, so the nitrogen turned to gas, which is mostly what Titan's atmosphere contains. Then they threw what abounds on Titan, methane and ethane, as well as other carbonaceous molecules, and looked for what was formed.

The first things to emit from their titanium hydrocarbon soup were benzene crystals. Benzene is perhaps best known as a component of gasoline and is a snowflake-shaped molecule made of a hexagonal ring of carbon atoms. But the titanium benzene kept a surprise: the molecules repositioned and allowed ethane molecules inside, creating a co-crystal.

The researchers then discovered the acetylene and butano-crystal, which is probably much more common on Titan than benzene crystals, based on what is known about the moon's composition, Cable said.

In the moon's cold climate, the acetylene-butane crystals can form rings around the lakes of the moon when the liquid hydrocarbons evaporate and the minerals fall out in the same way that salts can form earth crusts on the earth's lakes and seas, according to Cable.

To confirm if Titan has bath rings of co-crystals and other undiscovered hydrocarbon crystals, scientists have to wait until spaceships can visit this moon's beaches, Cable said.

"We do not yet know if we have these bathtub rings," Cable said. "It's hard to see through Titan's secret atmosphere."

Cassini reveals surprises with Titan's lakes

More information:
Presentation title: "Acetylene-butano-crystal: A potentially abundant molecular mineral on the Titan" agu.confex.com/agu/abscicon19/ … app.cgi / Paper / 480183

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"Bath tubs" around Titan's lakes can be made of foreign crystals (2019, June 24)
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