Cassini finds plastic ingredient propylene on Saturn`s moon Titan

NASA`s Cassini spacecraft has discovered propylene, a chemical that is used to make food-storage containers, car bumpers, on Saturn`s moon Titan.

Updated: Oct 01, 2013, 10:20 AM IST

Washington: NASA`s Cassini spacecraft has discovered propylene, a chemical that is used to make food-storage containers, car bumpers, on Saturn`s moon Titan.

This is the first time that the plastic ingredient has been detected 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.

Lead author Conor Nixon, a planetary scientist at NASA`s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said that this chemical is all around us in everyday life, strung together in long chains to form a plastic called polypropylene.

He said that the plastic container at the grocery store with the recycling code 5 on the bottom - that`s polypropylene.

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.

The findings have been published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

ANI