Planetary Science

Benzene ice clouds in Titan's atmosphere

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Science  22 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6395, pp. 1311
DOI: 10.1126/science.360.6395.1311-a

Night-side view of Saturn's moon Titan, showing its hazy atmosphere

PHOTO: NASA/JPL-CALTECH/SPACE SCIENCE INSTITUTE

Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, has a thick atmosphere composed mostly of nitrogen, with smaller amounts of organic molecules such as methane and benzene. Vinatier et al. have analyzed infrared spectra of Titan obtained by the Cassini spacecraft during flybys of the moon. In addition to the expected gas-phase species, colder regions show a spectral signature consistent with solid benzene. After eliminating alternative explanations, the authors conclude that stratospheric clouds of benzene ice are present, particularly over Titan's south pole. The clouds are analogous to high-altitude cirrus clouds on Earth, which are composed of solid water-ice crystals.

Icarus 310, 89 (2018).

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