Lakes on Titan Might Have Exotic Crystals Encrusted Around Their Shores

Universe Today | 6/26/2019 | Staff
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Titan is a mysterious, strange place for human eyes. It’s a frigid world, with seas of liquid hydrocarbons, and a structure made up of layers of water, different kinds of ice, and a core of hydrous silicates. It may even have cryovolcanoes. Adding to the odd nature of Saturn’s largest moon is the presence of exotic crystals on the shores of its hydrocarbon lakes.

Next to actually sending another spacecraft there, the best way to understand Titan is to replicate its conditions in a laboratory. Thanks to Cassini and Huygens, scientists know more about Titan than ever. And now laboratory simulations based largely on data from the Cassini-Huygens mission are revealing some exotic goings-on at Saturn’s moon Titan.

New - Research - Existence - Crystals - Acetylene

New research has revealed the existence of crystals made of acetylene (C2H2) and butane (C4H10) that likely form on the shores of Titan’s lakes. Previous research based on data and images from Cassini showed signs of evaporated material left behind on the shores of lakes in the dry, equatorial regions on Titan. Now scientists have recreated Titan’s conditions and chemistry and watched the exotic crystals form, and they’re pretty sure that’s what Cassini saw on Titan’s shorelines.

This new research, called “The Acetylene-Butane Co-Crystal: A Potentially Abundant Molecular Mineral on Titan” was presented on June 24th at 2019 Astrobiology Science Conference in Seattle, Washington. The presenter was Morgan Cable of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.

Researchers - Cryostat - Conditions - Titan - Temperatures

The researchers used a cryostat to mimic the extremely cold conditions on Titan, where temperatures plunge to -179.2 Celsius (94 Kelvin, ?290.5 °F). They then filled the cryostat with liquid nitrogen, to bring the temperature down. They warmed it slightly to...
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