This gas is methane. Why is methane gas found on Saturn’s moon Titan?
Titan is Saturn’s moon, larger than Mercury’s. Its mass is similar to that of Pluto. Titan’s most special feature is its thick atmosphere.
Studies indicate that Titan’s atmosphere contains up to 98.44% nitrogen. This also means that Titan becomes the only nitrogen-rich place in the solar system, other than Earth.
Saturn’s moon Titan has many unsolved mysteries. Photo: NASA
In addition to nitrogen, Titan’s atmosphere is also rich in hydrocarbons, including methane (CH4), ethane (C2H6), carbon dioxide (CO2)… However, scientists speculate that there is a lot of methane and ethane on Titan. .
In addition, scientists discovered that Titan’s temperature is very low, about -180 degrees Celsius. If there is a lot of methane on Titan, it will not exist in the gaseous form, but will instead turn into a liquid form in The temperature is about -160 degrees Celsius.
From this inference, scientists surmise that there are many methane lakes on Titan’s moon. Experts also found that there were a lot of flickering points when observed through the telescope. This is likely a reflection of liquid lakes or oceans. One of them can be mentioned Kraken Mare lake, which accounts for 80% of the liquid on Titan’s surface.
According to astronomer Valerio Poggiali at Cornell University’s Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, if placed on Earth, this lake would be the size of all five great lakes in North America.
Giant methane lake on Titan has surprising depth
On September 15, 2017, the Cassini spacecraft plunged into Titan’s atmosphere to “commit suicide”, ending a 20-year mission to explore Saturn. However, the data of this ship still brought back surprising new findings. Although there are still many places that are unknown to humans, the data transmitted by Cassini has brought us new insights about Titan, Saturn’s moon.
Titan’s surface has natural conditions similar to those of Earth. Photo: NASA
According to a study in the Journal of Planetary Geophysics Research In early 2021, the massive Kraken Mare lake is nearly 10 times deeper than originally estimated.
Previously, according to data collected by the Cassini spacecraft, astronomers determined that the Kraken Mare lake was more than 300 m deep. But in fact, this lake is so deep that the Cassini’s radar cannot probe to the bottom.
In particular, the composition of this lake also surprised scientists because it contains a mixture of methane and ethane. Scientists hope to soon be able to find the source of liquid methane on Titan’s moon, thereby contributing to partly unraveling the mystery of Titan.
According to scientists’ speculation, Titan contains large amounts of methane and other gases. In other words, Titan is a huge reservoir of natural gas, and the natural gas content of this Moon can be hundreds of times that of Earth. Therefore, if humans can make good use of these gas resources, it can certainly help more development in the future.
However, methane is a very flammable gas. Therefore, it seems that Titan can also be considered a “bomb” that is very explosive. So, will one day, if the huge amount of gas on Titan explodes, what will be the result?
If Titan burns, what will happen?
According to scientists, the possibility of Titan igniting is very small. Because according to previous data and analysis, it can be seen that the main component of Titan is nitrogen, in addition to a number of other hydrocarbons. However, due to the absence of oxygen, it cannot burn, even if it contains a lot of methane.
Even if an external force intervenes to release a large amount of oxygen for Titan, it will not make the moon warm, because Titan’s temperature is too low (-180 degrees Celsius).
Therefore, the large amount of natural gas on Titan will not be lost. In addition, on the surface of the Moon Titan also has liquid flowing through. But this liquid is not water like the rivers on Earth, instead is a mixture of different hydrocarbons.
The moon Titan contains a lot of natural gas, including methane. Photo: BGR
Titan resembles the early Earth in terms of the laws of matter activity, but differs in composition. In particular, on Titan there is no liquid water, only frozen water. However, scientists think it is very likely that Titan will have life. After all, Titan is the only moon with a thick atmosphere found in the solar system. In particular, the methane composition present in this atmosphere is also considered the basis for the existence of life.
According to scientists, during combustion, the ice on Titan can melt and the methane lakes will also turn into gas and enter the atmosphere. This means that this atmosphere will become more suitable for life to exist.
Titan – “promised land” to search for life?
Titan has natural conditions very similar to Earth when there are clouds, rain, rivers, lakes … and oceans below the surface. Titan’s atmosphere is very thick, four times that of Earth’s, and is composed mainly of nitrogen and methane. It is this that has attracted the attention of astronomers.
Therefore, NASA also always puts Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, at the top of the list of most important targets for searching for extraterrestrial life.
According to Rosaly Lopes, a scientist and senior expert at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL): “We’re trying to figure out if life could exist on Titan. We wanted to know which compounds came down from the atmosphere to the surface and then whether they could penetrate the ice crust into the ocean below, because we think the ocean is the most likely place. forming life”.
Because it is 10 times farther from the Sun than Earth, Titan receives about 100 times less energy from the Sun than the blue planet. With this faint light, Titan should have converted the methane in its atmosphere to ethane. However, current modeling suggests that, somehow, the object has cycled all the methane on its surface in just 10 million years.
NASA experts are also working on a submarine concept and plan to launch this probe into Titan’s Kraken Mare lake in 2030. Astronomer Valerio Poggiali at the Center for Astrophysics and Science Cornell University’s Planetary Science Institute, said that new data analyzed from the Cassini spacecraft could also help engineers make better adjustments to the sonar on board.
Titan has a lot of possibilities for life, so people study it in more detail. After all, the formation and evolution of life is the answer that scientists have been searching for. Therefore, in the future, more probes will be sent to explore this mysterious and interesting Moon.
Atmospheric methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that has the potential to warm the Earth. This is also a greenhouse gas that has a much stronger heat-trapping ability than CO2. On Earth, methane comes from a variety of sources, such as decomposing organic materials, livestock, natural gas, etc. In fact, just mixing methane with other chemicals at 5% is enough. may cause an explosion. Although not toxic, methane is a gas that causes suffocation.
Article referenced source: NASA, Space, Smithsonianmag, Odysseymagazine
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