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Cassini Probe Sees Plastic Ingredient On Titan Moon 71

Posted by timothy
from the windblown-grocery-bags dept.
Ron024 writes "The Cassini probe has detected propene, or propylene, on Saturn's moon Titan. It is the first definitive detection of the plastic ingredient on any moon or planet, other than our home world, says the U.S. space agency (NASA). The discovery, made by Cassini's infrared spectrometer, is reported in Astrophysical Journal Letters [abstract]."
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Cassini Probe Sees Plastic Ingredient On Titan Moon

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  • It was probably one of those plastic 6-pack holders.
  • Not this again... (Score:5, Informative)

    by ModernGeek (601932) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @10:31AM (#45002483) Homepage
    Doesn't anyone remember the last time we found plastic on another planet [slashdot.org]?
    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      Don't forget the methane on Mars, that was found and then un-found.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Doesn't anyone remember the last time we found plastic on another planet [slashdot.org]?

      The Crying Indian by the side of the road has a tear in his eye for Mars and Titan.

    • Re:Not this again... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @10:57AM (#45002825) Journal

      It's not that implausible in the case of Titan. The moon is covered with hydrocarbons, it would be more suprising if none of those hydrocarbons were unsaturated. And that's all we're really talking about, individual propane monomers that have had a couple hydrogens knocked off. They're not even claiming to have found polypropylene.

    • Coruscant, Tatooin and Naboo to name a few! Oh wait.. those weren't actually real...
    • Try to RTFA.

      It is not about "OMG we found propylene!!!". It is about the fact that we *did* find a lot of c3 hydrocarbones on Titan, but we didn't see the propylene, the simplest c3 hydrocarbone, before. Which was weird.

  • "Today, NASA has found the remnants of cow flatulence on Saturn. Scientists call this mysterious gas "methane". According to these scientists, methane contains one carbon and 4 hydrogens. How exactly did this "methane" made it's way to Saturn? We are sure the scientists are working vigorously to find out."
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Don't just chuck it into the garbage can where it will end up under some golf course.

  • Titan looks like it could be a pretty interesting moon for building a space station. The atmospheric pressure is only 1.45 times of that on Earth meaning you could have the habitat pressure equalized with the atmosphere so pressure isn't a concern. If there is water trapped under ice as is speculated, we could produce oxygen for breathing and mix it with the plentiful nitrogen to make air similar to what we have on Earth. I don't know how much light reaches the surface, probably too little to be of use for

    • by ezrec (29765)

      I think there's plenty of oxygen. The trick is to find a way to extract the O2 from the water ice (hopefully there is a percentage of O2 that is simply dissolved in the ice instead of having to use electrolysis) to make it advantageous to burn it with the methane for power.

      The equation should end up as the following for a viable mission using methane as a fuel:

      Heat cost of producing O2 < Heat generated by burning O2 with atmospheric methane.

      • by tsa (15680)

        You can't burn O2. You need O2 to burn methane.

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          "burn it with the methane" - I don't really understand how you misread that.

          • by tsa (15680)

            You burn methane, not O2. I guess for a non-chemist that's nitpicking though.

      • I do not think there would be any oxygen dissolved in the ice. That oxygen would have to have come from the atmosphere, not from the molecules. If anything, there would be dissolved methane trapped in the ice.

        No, I think that your only source of oxygen would be from electrolysis. But one should safely assume that any space station capable of succeeding anywhere, would have to be build with the capability of producing excesses of energy (nuclear or chemical).

        Who knows, by then we may have a relay of satellit

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Keep your Great White light away from my moon!

        • I fear relaying Sun towards Titan is at least as vain as the famous James Bond sun-focussing sat in whatever episode it was: very simple calculations starting from the Sun diameter show that given the distances involved, with ordinary optics you at best double the ordinary power (1 Kw/m2 -> 2Kw/m2 on Earth -nothing like an explosive setup).
          If anything, given the huge distances and our not-huge-satellite-size capacity, this factor would be lower on Titan. Now, as you say, there remains the laser. But then

    • by luckymutt (996573)

      ...If there is water trapped under ice as is speculated, we could produce oxygen for breathing and mix it with the plentiful nitrogen to make air similar to what we have on Earth.

      Too bad there isn't any oxygen otherwise all that methane would be pretty damn useful for power and heat.

      Looks like you just solved the problem?

      • by LoRdTAW (99712)

        The problem is you can't get a neat gain from burning methane + O2 and using that energy to make more O2 and have energy left over. You would need an abundant supply of oxygen or a method of splitting water that is more efficient.

      • by LoRdTAW (99712)

        Or, I just thought about it. If the station were big enough I wonder if a sufficient amount of oxygen could be generated by plants. Then you may be able to get a surplus but then you still need night energy for the plants to grow. Its an interesting thought.

        • by anyanka (1953414)

          Which means, basically, using solar power – and if there's enough for the plants, there is likely enough for other purposes as well. And you'll need carbon dioxide (which is, apparently, available in trace amounts, which is perhaps enough).

          • by cusco (717999)

            No, solar power won't even work at Jupiter, much less Saturn. The amount of solar panel necessary to eliminate the RTG on Galileo would have made the spacecraft so enormous that it wouldn't have been stable enough for photography in Jupiter's gravity field. Saturn is even further out, receiving even less sunlight. At that distance you're stuck with nuclear power or some other more exotic energy source. Since both Jupiter and Saturn are surrounded by powerful energy fields perhaps there would be some way

            • by anyanka (1953414)

              Yes. I seem to remember someone comparing the light levels to moonlight – but can't remember if that was Saturn or Jupiter, or perhaps even closer.

  • Now I can bring my 3D printer along when I vacation there.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Made with ALL NATURAL propylene!"

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @10:58AM (#45002845)

    You know what this means? The Nestene Consciousness is probably living there with its army of Autons. Someone call the Doctor!

  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @11:04AM (#45002913) Homepage Journal

    Planets want plastic and we evolved to make lots of it. So get over your "save the planet" BS and start giving the planet more plastic.
    We should create a Kickstarter to send a shipment to Titan which while working hard to make it's own, clearly would be happy with much more.

    • by asylumx (881307)
      But wouldn't it make Earth unhappy if we shipped its hard-earned plastic to a neighboring planet's moon?
    • I think you're mistaken.

      An empty plastic container on the side of the road on Earth is littering. What this really means is that the species that preceded us as life in our solar system were also litterers. There are several interesting results of this discovery.

      1. The EPA will now find a reason to send an expedition to Titan to find out what intergalactic race left their plastic refuse on the surface with the intent of fining them. They'll likely attempt to date the plastic and retroactively apply the

  • UWTB explains it all.
  • Likely it's discarded trash from deep-fried Ewoks-on-a-stick. How is this not obvious?

  • There is life on other worlds and they're using Titan for a garbage dump!
  • The Sirens [wikipedia.org] Didn't clean up too well after getting the critical repair part from Earth.

  • Uh oh (Score:4, Funny)

    by mu51c10rd (187182) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @02:49PM (#45005645)

    So aliens use plastic too eh? Greenpeace is going to have a fit...

  • Yeah, we found proof of alien industrial pollution

    And since we found no cooper wire on the surface, it means they also master radio communications!

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