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2009 Annual Science Report

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory - Titan Reporting  |  JUL 2008 – AUG 2009

Task 1.2 Interaction of Methane/ethane With Water Ice

Project Summary

The degree of mixing on the Titan surface between liquid hydrocarbons and the icy water surface establishes a potential for reactions that could form prebiotic compounds.

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

Co-Investigator Christophe Sotin has prepared a laboratory simulation of the mixing between liquid hydrocarbons and water ice. The laboratory simulation is now working well. Drops of methane or ethane are produced and fall on an ice target (Figure 1). Experiments on ice targets with different grain size and porosity have been performed. These experiments show that the amount of hydrocarbon which can be trapped into the ice is very large. A first paper is in preparation and an invited talk at the next AGU meeting (Sotin et al., 2009) will describe the results and the applications for the replenishment of Titan’s lakes in hydrocarbons.

Figure 1: Drop of ethane coming out of the capillary and falling on the icy substrate. Previous drops have modified the initial color of the icy target and have been absorbed into the porous ice. No transformation has been observed during this experiment which suggests that the ice must be saturated in hydrocarbons before hydrocarbon pools can form.

    Christophe Sotin Christophe Sotin
    Project Investigator
    Objective 1.1
    Formation and evolution of habitable planets.

    Objective 2.2
    Outer Solar System exploration

    Objective 3.1
    Sources of prebiotic materials and catalysts

    Objective 3.2
    Origins and evolution of functional biomolecules

    Objective 3.3
    Origins of energy transduction