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Between heaven and Earth: the exploration of Titan Tobias C. Owen,a

Summary: Between heaven and Earth: the exploration of Titan
Tobias C. Owen,a
Hasso Niemann,b
Sushil Atreyac
and Mikhail Y. Zolotovd
Received 5th December 2005, Accepted 13th February 2006
First published as an Advance Article on the web 13th July 2006
DOI: 10.1039/b517174a
The atmosphere of Titan represents a bridge between the early solar nebula and
atmospheres like ours. The low abundances of primordial noble gases in Titan's
atmosphere relative to N2 suggest that the icy planetesimals that formed the satellite must
have originated at temperatures higher than 75100 K. Under these conditions, N2 would
also be very poorly trapped and thus Titan's nitrogen, like ours, must have arrived as
nitrogen compounds, of which ammonia was likely the major component. This
temperature constraint also argues against the trapping of methane. Production of this gas
on the satellite after formation appears reasonable based on terrestrial examples of
serpentinization, disproportionation and reduction of carbon. These processes require
rocks, water, suitable catalysts and the variety of primordial carbon compounds that were
plausibly trapped in Titan's ices. Application of this same general scenario to Ganymede,
Callisto, KBOs and conditions on the very early Earth seems promising.


Source: Atreya, Sushil - Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Science, University of Michigan


Collections: Physics