Alien Crystals & # 39; unlike anything found on Earth & # 39; can outline the coastline of Saturn's moon Titan
Alien Crystals & # 39; unlike anything found on Earth & # 39; can cover the coastline of Saturn's moon Titan, says NASA
- Rings of material were left on Titan around evaporation lakes
- Researchers have recreated the freezing cold conditions of this moon in their laboratory
- New minerals including crystals made of solid acetylene and butane formed
- On earth these compounds are gases that are used for welding and for fuel
Exotic crystals – quite different from anything found naturally on earth – could affect the shores of lakes on the frozen moon of Saturn, Titan.
NASA researchers reconstructed the cold conditions of the surface of Titan in the laboratory and discovered that they could form strange new mineral compounds.
These include so-called co-crystals consisting of solid acetylene and butane, which are used as liquid fuels on earth.
It is possible that these crystals form the ring-like deposits spotted around evaporation lakes on Titan by the famous Kamikaze Cassini-Huygens mission.
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Exotic crystals – quite different from anything found naturally on Earth – can spoil the shores of lakes on the frozen moon of Saturn, Titan (pictured, is an artist & # 39; s impression)
Titan is the only place on earth where liquid lakes are known as vast hydrocarbons that survive on the surface of the moon.
Data collected by the Cassini-Huygens mission in 2004/5 revealed that lakes in the drier equatorial regions of the moon were surrounded by deposits of mysterious materials that remained as liquids evaporated, just like soap scum around a bath.
& # 39; We do not yet know if we have these bathtub rings & # 39 ;, said Dr. Morgan Cable, planetary scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
& # 39; It is difficult to see through the hazy atmosphere of Titan. & # 39;
To find out what these materials can be made of, Dr. Cable of the NASA researchers has begun to recreate the alien environment of Titan in the laboratory.
The atmosphere of Titan is believed to be a chilly -291.1 ° F (-179.5 ° C), so the researchers first filled a custom-made cold room, or cryostat, with liquid nitrogen.
By heating the cryostat, the liquid nitrogen changed slightly into gas, in the same way as with Titan.
Finally, they added other chemical compounds to the gas that are expected to appear on the Saturnian moon – including ethane, methane, and other carbon-containing molecules.
The first solids to form from their cold hydrocarbon soup were crystals of benzene that behave surprisingly as it absorbed ethane molecules.
This formed what scientists called a & # 39; co-crystal & # 39; of the two components and they subsequently discovered that these bizarre fusions also occurred for various other chemicals.
Researchers discovered that similar co-crystals consisting of acetylene and butane were also formed.
Although the cold environment of Titan allows these compounds to form solid crystals, they exist on Earth as gases and are commonly used as fuel for welding and cooking.
It is thought that these acetylene-butane co-crystals are more likely to occur than their benzene counterparts, Dr. Cable said.
By recreating the cold conditions of Titan's surface in the laboratory, NASA researchers discovered they could form strange new mineral compounds
A similar process takes place on Earth, where salts can form concentric crusts around the shores of lakes and seas – as on the edges of the Dead Sea – Dr. Cable explained
Researchers believe that in the cold climate of Titan, acetylene-butane-co-crystals can form around lakes on the moon as the liquid evaporates, causing crystals to form at the edges.
A similar process takes place on Earth, where salt crusts can form around the shores of lakes and seas, Dr. Cable explained.
The crystals can even provide a source of energy for every possible life that could exist on the moon, the researchers suggest.
It will need a spaceship that actually visits the Titan coastline to confirm whether these crystals actually exist on the distant moon.
The full results of the study were presented on June 24 at the 2017 Astrobiology Science Conference in Seattle, Washington.
TITAN AND EARTH: EQUALIZATIONS
Titan and Earth have many similar functions.
Just like the surface of the oceans on Earth is at what we & # 39; sea level & # 39; the seas of Titan are also at an average height.
It is currently the only other world we know of in our solar system with stable liquid on the surface.
Smaller lakes on Titan appear at altitudes hundreds of meters higher than the sea level of Titan. This is comparable to lakes found at high altitudes on Earth.
For example, the highest lake in the world navigable by large ships, Lake Titicaca, is more than 12,000 feet (3,700 meters) above sea level.
Titan's liquid bodies seem to be connected below the surface by something that looks like an aquifer on Earth.
Hydrocarbons flow below the surface of the Titan, similar to the way water flows through underground porous rock or gravel on earth.
This means that nearby lakes communicate with each other and share a common fluid level.
Apart from the earth, Titan is the only place in the solar system that is known to have rivers, rainfall and seas – and possibly even waterfalls.
Of course, in the case of Titan, these are liquid methane instead of water on Earth.
Normal soil-water, H2O, is frozen frozen on Titan, the surface temperature being -180 ° C (-292 ° F).
With its thick atmosphere and organic-rich chemistry, Titan looks like a frozen version of the Earth a few billion years ago, before life began to pump oxygen into our atmosphere.
Because Titan is smaller than the earth, gravity does not hold its gas envelope so tightly that the atmosphere extends over 595 kilometers in space.
With Titan's low gravity and dense atmosphere, methane raindrops could become twice as large as earth's raindrops.
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