Scientists have modeled titanium-like conditions in a laboratory and found that organic molecules from the titanium atmosphere could form rings of foreign crystals around the methane lakes that cover the surface of the Saturn moon.
Previously, the team led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory researchers discovered two of these "molecular minerals." Now they have discovered a third substance consisting of acetylene and butane, and believe that it could be the most common.
"We have previously shown that some organic molecules readily form co-crystals under titanium-relevant conditions, including acetylene.
" We report preliminary evidence for a third co-crystal between acetylene and butane, the most abundant molecular Mineral that was previously discovered. "
Here further earth, both acetylene and butane, exist and are used as gases ̵
In contrast to the earth, however, it is cold enough when these compounds fall on the titanium surface, where the temperatures are fairly evenly around 90 Kelvin, actually forming solid crystals.
When the research team made a mini titan soup in a lab, they discovered that the compounds were not just become solid, but even melt into an undiscovered co-crystal on earth.
With liquid nitrogen, scientists cooled a specially designed chamber to titanium temperature and added a lot of titanium-based material – such as methane and ethane, as well as acetylene and butane.
Then they used a so-called technique Raman spectroscopy to study the structure of the resulting crystals.
The first crystals that were formed were benzene, which formed a co-crystal with ethane. Acetylene and ammonia formed the second co-crystal. Now the butane-acetylene co-crystal has been shown, and it may be far more common than the other two.
"The co-crystal forms at 130 K within minutes and is stable when cooled to surface temperatures of titanium (90 K)," the team wrote. "A thermal stability study shows that this co-crystal remains intact up to 180 K."
It is especially cool that these co-crystals do not happen by chance. Instead, we could look at structures of foreign crystals surrounding Titan's methane lakes.
This is because the compounds in the lakes dissolve when they fall from the sky. Because these bodies of liquid evaporate – much like lakes in the Earth's water cycle – the joints around the edges can form co-crystal evaporators, much like residues in a bath where dirty water is drained.
Well, we do not know exactly if this is the landscape we would find if we visited the enigmatic Saturn Moon, but there were promising signs.
Near-infrared Cassini images of Titan show what appears to be highly reflective, orange-colored Evaporite rings around some of the lakes in the northern lunar hemisphere.
"We still do not know if we have these bathtub rings," said astrochemist Morgan Cable of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "It's hard to see through the vaporous atmosphere of the Titan."
The team can do more here on Earth to get a clearer picture. The next part of the research will involve further investigation of the co-crystal itself and the search for additional molecular minerals that may be present on titanium.
The team presented these results at the 2019 Astrobiology Science Conference.