Planets and Moons  ID: 11339

Propylene on Titan

With a thick atmosphere, clouds, a rain cycle and giant lakes, Saturn's large moon Titan is a surprisingly Earthlike place. But unlike on Earth, Titan's surface is far too cold for liquid water - instead, Titan's clouds, rain, and lakes consist of liquid hydrocarbons like methane and ethane (which exist as gases here on Earth). When these hydrocarbons evaporate and encounter ultraviolet radiation in Titan's upper atmosphere, some of the molecules are broken apart and reassembled into longer hydrocarbons like ethylene and propane.

NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft first revealed the presence of several species of atmospheric hydrocarbons when it flew by Titan in 1980, but one molecule was curiously missing - propylene, the main ingredient in plastic number 5. Now, thanks to NASA's Cassini spacecraft, scientists have detected propylene on Titan for the first time, solving a long-standing mystery about the solar system's most Earthlike moon.



For More Information


Ernie Wright (USRA): Lead Animator
Chris Meaney (HTSI): Animator
Chris Smith (HTSI): Animator
Dan Gallagher (USRA): Animator
John S. Howard (NASA/JPL CalTech): Animator
Dan Gallagher (USRA): Video Editor
Conor Nixon (NASA/GSFC): Interviewee
Dan Gallagher (USRA): Producer
Conor Nixon (NASA/GSFC): Scientist
Aaron E. Lepsch (ADNET Systems, Inc.): Project Support
Rob Andreoli (Advocates in Manpower Management, Inc.): Videographer
Elizabeth Zubritsky (ADNET): Writer
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Short URL to share this page:


This item is part of this series:
Narrated Movies

Goddard TV Tape:
G2013-074 -- Propylene on Titan

SVS >> Carbon
SVS >> Hydrogen
SVS >> Infrared
SVS >> Voyager
SVS >> Spectroscopy
SVS >> Titan
SVS >> Cassini
NASA Science >> Planets and Moons
SVS >> Saturn
SVS >> Propylene