Titan is the largest moon of Saturn and the second object in the Solar System (Earth is the first one) that has a complex and geologically diverse surface, with hundreds of lakes and seas. In the past few weeks, space scientists discovered some dark marks around Titan’s lakes and are inclined to believe that the lakeshores are covered in minerals of an alien structure that cannot be found on Earth.
These lakes and seas are made of liquid hydrocarbons which, in certain conditions, evaporate and leave behind dry substances resembling the rings that are left on a bathtub.
A team of NASA scientists from Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology recreated Titan’s atmosphere in the laboratory and while doing that they came upon some new inorganic substances and compounds. They also discovered a crystal that formed after acetylene and butane combined in solid form. These substances and minerals could be what created the dark rings around the lakes.
Titan’s lakes present dark marks made of minerals of an alien structure
In order to create the atmosphere of one of Saturn’s moons, the space scientists designed a cryostat, a machine that is used to provide and preserve shallow temperatures. Liquid nitrogen was introduced into the cryostat, which resulted in low temperature. After that, the cryostat was slightly heated up so that the nitrogen became gas. It is well known that Titan’s atmosphere is composed mostly of gaseous nitrogen. They further added methane and ethane and many other carbon-containing molecules.
The result was crystals of benzene. Benzene, one of the most well-known components of petrol, is an organic chemical which consists of carbon and hydrogen atoms. What happened next was that the benzene molecules readjusted in order to allow ethane molecules. That resulted in the creation of a new co-crystal. And then another co-crystal formed from the joining of acetylene and butane.
As reported by researcher Morgan Cable (JPN), because of the cold temperatures of Titan as the liquid hydrocarbons that form the lakes vaporize, the acetylene-butane co-crystals fall and create the rings around them. However, the researchers are yet to be sure that the Titan lakes’ dark marks are acetylene-butane co-crystals or other minerals of an alien structure until a space probe is sent to inspect the Titan’s lakes and seas closer.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.