“Titan has the most complex chemistry of any body in the solar system,” says Roger Yelle, a professor in the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. Above: natural color view of Titan and Saturn from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

Posted by Daniel Stolte-Arizona on Thursday, February 21, 2013 7:46

How Saturn’s Titan cooks up smog

U. ARIZONA (US) — New details of how aerosol particles on Saturn’s smoggy moon Titan got their start may help predict how such particles form in other atmospheres and on Earth.

Scientists using data from NASA’s Cassini mission are investigating aerosol formation on Titan because it could help shed light on fundamental processes underlying the formation of life.

“Titan has the most complex chemistry of any body in the solar system,” says Roger Yelle, a professor in the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, who co-authored the study.

“Cassini discovered large molecules and aerosols high up in Titan’s atmosphere. We have long thought there is a continuum between the two, and with this study, we are able to show that.”

According to the new paper, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Titan’s trademark reddish-brown smog appears to begin with solar radiation on molecules of nitrogen and methane in the ionosphere—the uppermost layer of the moon’s atmosphere—which creates a soup of negative and positive ions.

Read more: Futurity.org – How Saturn’s Titan cooks up smog.

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