Canadian Plastics

Space probe finds plastic ingredient on Saturn’s moon

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has found propylene, a chemical used to make household plastic containers, on Saturn's moon Titan, the space agency said.

September 30, 2013   Canadian Plastics

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has found propylene, a chemical used to make household plastic containers, on Saturn’s moon Titan, the space agency said.

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

A small amount of propylene was identified in Titan’s lower atmosphere by Cassini’s composite infrared spectrometer, which measures heat radiation, the agency reported in the September 30, 2013, edition of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

By isolating the same signal at various altitudes within the lower atmosphere, researchers identified the chemical’s unique thermal fingerprint with a high degree of confidence, NASA said.

The chemical is used in a variety of applications, including in car bumpers and other consumer products.

The discovery could help scientists understand the “chemical zoo” that makes up Titan’s hazy brownish atmosphere, said Scott Edgington, Cassini’s deputy project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.


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