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Space Science

Astronomers Probe Mysterious Gas In Titan's Atmosphere 104

Posted by samzenpus
from the up-in-the-air dept.
sciencehabit writes "A fluorescent glow high in the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, signifies the presence of a gas that astronomers have yet to identify. The glow appears only on the daytime side of the moon at altitudes between 600 and 1250 kilometers, with the largest intensity occurring at an altitude of about 950 km. Detailed analyses reveal that the glow doesn't stem from a problem with the Saturn-orbiting Cassini craft, and it isn't associated with methane or any of the other hydrocarbons already identified as constituents of Titan's atmosphere."
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Astronomers Probe Mysterious Gas In Titan's Atmosphere

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  • I guess the chances of anything coming from Titan, are a million to one...

  • No spectrograph? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Un pobre guey (593801) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @07:57PM (#43165743) Homepage
    They don't have an emission spectrum that can be analyzed?
  • Good job (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daetrin (576516) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @07:58PM (#43165755)
    An article about astronomical observations of a gas and so far we've already got three fart jokes and one random insult. I see Slashdot is living up to form.

    (And what did Phil Plait ever do to you AC? Or do you have an irrational grudge against any scientists who actually tries to educate laypeople?)
    • so far we've already got three fart jokes and one random insult

      Welcome to human race.

    • When the number of jokes surpasses the number of non-joke posts, that's when you know it's a really good article.
    • and what did you bring to the conversation? about as much as me.
  • by ark1 (873448)
    Uranus?

    Someone had to do it.
  • by Latinhypercube (935707) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @08:13PM (#43165911)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polycyclic_aromatic_hydrocarbon [wikipedia.org]
    Origins of life PAH world hypothesis ...PAHs, subjected to interstellar medium (ISM) conditions, are transformed, through hydrogenation, oxygenation and hydroxylation, to more complex organics - "a step along the path toward amino acids and nucleotides, the raw materials of proteins and DNA, respectively".
  • Reminds me of a Star Trek episode or two where they mistakenly take about some glowing air or sand or some such and it turns out to be sentient. Or could be some bizarre bacteria that flourishes in that environment. Heck we've found silicon based flora in our own deep oceans.

  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @08:18PM (#43165957)

    So we have a planetoid enveloped in a vaporous cloud of mysterious matter, which is unknown to science.

    Well, I've seen enough old Star Trek episodes to know that it's almost certainly a malevolent disembodied life form, which was left imprisoned on that desolate moon eons ago to keep it from threatening other civilizations throughout the galaxy.

    Unfortunately, the Huygens probe has probably now provided it with the tools it needs to transport itself off the moon, most likely in a bid to attack and take over our planet Earth. Since it's probably invulnerable to any technology we posess, our only hope is to cleverly lure it into some kind of trap where it will destroy itself, most likely in a large explosion.

    • by evanism (600676)

      They clearly forgot to add the "malevolent disembodied life form" detection dooverlacky on this probe.

      NASA cant get *anything* right!

  • That's all.
    But NASA needs some good PR.
    Which is a good enough motive these days.

  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @08:33PM (#43166071)

    Pumbaa: Hey, Timon, ever wonder what those sparkly dots are up there?
    Timon: Pumbaa, I don't wonder; I know.
    Pumbaa: Oh. What are they?
    Timon: They're fireflies. Fireflies that, uh... got stuck up on that big bluish-black thing.
    Pumbaa: Oh, gee. I always thought they were balls of gas burning billions of miles away.
    Timon: Pumbaa, with you, everything's gas.

  • I mean, who doesn't?
  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @10:25PM (#43166951)

    *groan over the uranus, fartgas, and other dumb jokes.*

    Anyway, since this is occuring over the sunlit side of the moon, and that the moon is very far away from the sun, and that solar wind particle action on the moon's atmosphere would be shockingly small, (Saturn's magnetic field would push a good deal away, and even then the distance means a radically lower conentration than we are used to dealing with, meaning solar ions are unlikely as a cause.) Is it possible that there are tiny organic molecules up there with a fluorescent property?

    Titan has lots of methane, nitrogen, and ambient radiation from Saturn. Tiny particles just a few molecules in size suspended in the upper atmosphere would be all that's needed. Essentially, glow in the dark organic dust?

    It would be interesting to see if there are other re-emission falloff zones in that part of the atmosphere relating to the e-ring charge emissions from Saturn, and other nearby energy sources that could excite a light emitting molecule.

  • It's GAS MUSIC from JUPITER!!!
  • I'm the only Slashdotter who's read John Varley?

"Regardless of the legal speed limit, your Buick must be operated at speeds faster than 85 MPH (140kph)." -- 1987 Buick Grand National owners manual.

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