Titan ocean: Ethane, methane, nitrogen

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Abstract

Detection of the atmosphere of Saturn's satellite Titan by the Voyager I spacecraft indicated an abundance of only 3 mol % methane (CH4). Recently J.I. Lunine, D.J. Stevenson, and Y.L. Yung calculated that 3 mol % methane is sufficiently low to preclude the stable coexistence of liquid methane on Titan's surface, which has a temperature of 94 K (Science, 222, 1229, 1983). Instead, Lunine et al. suggest that Titan's atmospheric methane may have broken down by a catalyzed photochemical reaction to ethane (C2H6). The resulting ocean would consist of a mixture of C2H6 and CH4 in the proportion of 3 to 1.

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