Navigation Links
NASA's Cassini spacecraft finds ingredient of household plastic in space
Date:9/30/2013

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has detected propylene, a chemical used to make food-storage containers, car bumpers and other consumer products, on Saturn's moon Titan.

This is the first definitive detection of the plastic ingredient on any moon or planet, other than Earth.

A small amount of propylene was identified in Titan's lower atmosphere by Cassini's Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS). This instrument measures the infrared light, or heat radiation, emitted from Saturn and its moons in much the same way our hands feel the warmth of a fire.

Propylene is the first molecule to be discovered on Titan using CIRS. By isolating the same signal at various altitudes within the lower atmosphere, researchers identified the chemical with a high degree of confidence. Details are presented in a paper in the Sept. 30 edition of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"This chemical is all around us in everyday life, strung together in long chains to form a plastic called polypropylene," said Conor Nixon, a planetary scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and lead author of the paper. "That plastic container at the grocery store with the recycling code 5 on the bottom -- that's polypropylene."

CIRS can identify a particular gas glowing in the lower layers of the atmosphere from its unique thermal fingerprint. The challenge is to isolate this one signature from the signals of all other gases around it.

The detection of the chemical fills in a mysterious gap in Titan observations that dates back to NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft and the first-ever close flyby of this moon in 1980.

Voyager identified many of the gases in Titan's hazy brownish atmosphere as hydrocarbons, the chemicals that primarily make up petroleum and other fossil fuels on Earth.

On Titan, hydrocarbons form after sunlight breaks apart methane, the second-most plentiful gas in that atmosphere. The newly freed fragments can link up to form chains with two, three or more carbons. The family of chemicals with two carbons includes the flammable gas ethane. Propane, a common fuel for portable stoves, belongs to the three-carbon family.

Voyager detected all members of the one- and two-carbon families in Titan's atmosphere. From the three-carbon family, the spacecraft found propane, the heaviest member, and propyne, one of the lightest members. But the middle chemicals, one of which is propylene, were missing.

As researchers continued to discover more and more chemicals in Titan's atmosphere using ground- and space-based instruments, propylene was one that remained elusive. It was finally found as a result of more detailed analysis of the CIRS data.

"This measurement was very difficult to make because propylene's weak signature is crowded by related chemicals with much stronger signals," said Michael Flasar, Goddard scientist and principal investigator for CIRS. "This success boosts our confidence that we will find still more chemicals long hidden in Titan's atmosphere."

Cassini's mass spectrometer, a device that looks at the composition of Titan's atmosphere, had hinted earlier that propylene might be present in the upper atmosphere. However, a positive identification had not been made.

"I am always excited when scientists discover a molecule that has never been observed before in an atmosphere," said Scott Edgington, Cassini's deputy project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. "This new piece of the puzzle will provide an additional test of how well we understand the chemical zoo that makes up Titan's atmosphere."


'/>"/>

Contact: Nancy Neal-Jones
nancy.n.jones@nasa.gov
301-286-0039
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Ah, that new car smell: NASA technology protects spacecraft from outgassed molecular contaminants
2. Study finds steroids may persist longer in the environment than expected
3. New CU-Boulder-led study finds microbial clock may help determine time of death
4. SLU researcher finds a turtle eye muscle adapts to deal with obstructed vision
5. Study finds that a subset of children often considered to have autism may be misdiagnosed
6. A phone call can change your life: Study finds
7. Therapy slows onset and progression of Lou Gehrigs disease, study finds
8. 400-year study finds Northeast forests resilient, changing
9. Study finds novel worm community affecting methane release in ocean
10. Fresh analysis of dinosaur skulls by penn researchers finds 3 species are 1
11. Women in urban areas show high rates of postpartum depression, study finds
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/2/2017)... , Feb. 1, 2017  Central to its ... meaningful advances worldwide, The Japan Prize Foundation today ... who have pushed the envelope in their respective ... Communication. Three scientists are being recognized with the ... that not only contribute to the advancement of ...
(Date:1/30/2017)...   Invitae Corporation (NYSE: NVTA ... today announced that it will report its fourth quarter ... on Monday, February 13, 2017, and Invitae,s management team ... p.m. Eastern / 1:45 p.m. Pacific. ... financial results, guidance, and recent developments and will spend ...
(Date:1/25/2017)... Jan. 25, 2017 The Elements of Enterprise ... lifecycle is comprised of a comprehensive set of ... of maintaining digital identities and providing a secured ... There are significant number of programs opted by ... time by optimizing processes and changing policies. However, ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/17/2017)... , Feb. 17, 2017  Protagonist Therapeutics, ... data on its oral peptide drug candidates, PTG-100 ... of the European Crohn,s and Colitis Organization (ECCO).  ... Barcelona, Spain from February 15 ... detail preclinical data on Protagonist drug candidates PTG-100 ...
(Date:2/16/2017)... Arbor, MI (PRWEB) , ... February 16, 2017 , ... ... 5:00-7:00 p.m. The event will be held at Avomeen Analytical Services (4840 Venture ... by a MichBio member organization. They provide an opportunity to interact with peers, make ...
(Date:2/16/2017)... Calif. and GREENWICH, Conn. ... a private investment firm focused on venture growth ... the promotion of Josh Richardson , M.D. ... on investments in biotechnology companies.  He is a ... played important roles in Longitude,s investments in Aimmune ...
(Date:2/16/2017)... 2017  ArmaGen, Inc., a privately held biotechnology ... severe neurological disorders, today reported preliminary evidence of ... company,s investigational therapy for the treatment of Hurler ... I, or MPS I). The initial results from ... today at the 13 th annual WORLD ...
Breaking Biology Technology: