Have you ever imagined plastics on planet other than Earth. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has detected propylene, a chemical essential for creation of plastic, on Saturn’s moon Titan.
On Earth, this molecule, which comprises three carbon atoms and six hydrogen atoms, is a constituent of many plastics.
Talking about the development, US space agency said, “It is the first definitive detection of the plastic ingredient on any moon or planet, other than our home world”.
The discovery, made by Cassini’s infrared spectrometer, is reported in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Propylene is the first molecule to be discovered on Titan using Cassini’s Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS), which measures the infrared light, or heat radiation, emitted from Saturn and its moons.
“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, and lead author of the paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Titan is dominated by hydrocarbons – principally methane, which after nitrogen is the most common component of the atmosphere. Sunlight drives reactions that break apart the methane, allowing the fragments to join up and form even bigger molecules.
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.