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Optical and chemical properties of tholins

  • Bishun N. Khare (a1), Christopher P. McKay (a2), Dale P. Cruikshank (a2), Yasuhito Sekine (a3), Patrick Wilhite (a4) and Tomoko Ishihara (a1)...

Abstract

For over three decades tholins have been synthesized from mixtures of the cosmically abundant gases CH4, C2H6, NH3, H2O, HCHO, N2, and H2, previously in the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University and in recent years at NASA Ames Research Center. The tholin synthesized by UV light or spark discharge on sequential and non-sequential pyrolysis GC-MS revealed hundreds of compounds, and on hydrolysis produced a large number of amino acids including racemic protein amino acids. Optical constants have been measured of many of the tholins, tholins produced from a condensed mixture of water and ethane at 77 K, poly HCN, and Titan tholin produced on electrical discharge through a mixture of 90% N2 and 10% CH4. Its optical constants were measured from soft x-rays to microwave for the first time.

Here we report the absorption properties of Titan tholin that is produced in the temperature range 135 to 178 K where tholins are produced by magnetospheric charged particles, then pass through lower temperature at 70 K and finally to the ground at 95 K. While descending to the ground, it gets coated and processed on the way by other sources of energy such as long UV and cosmic rays. It is therefore expected that the stable products of CH4 photolysis react with Titan tholin to recycle the CH4 supply in Titan's atmosphere. Furthermore, the reactions of gaseous C2H6 with the reactive materials on the surface of the tholin could incorporate atmospheric C2H6 into the tholin and therefore might reduce the deposition rate of C2H6 onto the ground of Titan.

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