Ethane Ocean on Titan

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Science  16 Dec 1983:
Vol. 222, Issue 4629, pp. 1229-1230
DOI: 10.1126/science.222.4629.1229


It is proposed that Saturn's satellite Titan is covered by an ocean one to several kilometers deep consisting mainly of ethane. If the ocean is in thermodynamic equilibrium with an atmosphere of 3 percent (mole fraction) methane, then its composition is roughly 70 percent ethane, 25 percent methane, and 5 percent nitrogen. Photochemical models predict that ethane is the dominant end product of methane photolysis so that the evolving ocean is both the source and sink for continuing photolysis. The coexisting atmosphere is compatible with Voyager data.