April 28, 2005

Largest and Oldest Plastics Factory Discovered...

Unsung Heroes in Plastics: part one

Our first entrant is Christiaan Huygens, a Dutch astronomer who on March 25, 1655, discovered the 6th known moon, Titan of Saturn. What on earth does Huygens and Titan have to do with plastics??? you might do well to wonder....

Images of Saturn's Titan(images are: natural color, near infrared, false color.(nasa/jpl/ssi))
In 1907 the Spanish astronomer Jose Comas Sola first observed atmosphere on Titan by seeing darkening on the edges of the disk, giving evedence to a strongly absobing atmosphere.
In 1943-44 Dutch/American Gerard Kuiper confirmed Titans atmosphere by finding distinctive mehane bands in the spectrum of Titan.
This atmosphere was found to be an impenetrable haze by the Voyager and other observers.

350 years later we are finally finding out just what Huygens discovered thanks to the Hyugens/Cassini mission.
In news that's really just in...earlier this year the Huygens probe landed on Titan in January and the Cassini did the closest flyby yet (Apr 16) scientists have found some interesting things.

Titan's haze is made up of various hydrocarbons and 94% nitrogen atoms. Once this haze forms it it sinks slowly to the surface, coating it with hydrocarbon particles, Tholin,
a heteropolymer not formed naturally on earth.
There is also a large cloud formed over the south pole which was expected to be made of methane, but it's not. One possibility is that it is some kind of organic polymer., atomospheric plastic particles.

"Titan's thick orange aerosol haze is basically a bunch of organic plastics polymers of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen." said Mark Smith, head of University of Arizona's chemistry department.
Chemists at Mark's UofA lab have been creating compounds like those in Titan's sky by bombarding an analog of Titan's atmosphere, producing tholins like those on Titan.
Titan's tholins are created by ultraviolet sunlight and electrons streaming out from Saturn's magnetic field.

The largest organics factory in the galaxy (so far) first discovered by Christiaan Huygens in 1655.

Titan's surface

1 Comments:

Anonymous Steve said...

Can you imagine outsourcing to Titan?
Actually, that kinda future is not too far off.
The Virgin Company is working on low orbital reusable rockets, made with lots of plastic. The idea is to get it going into space in the near future.
Check back on this blog for more info on that.

5:24 PM  

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