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I (Bio)Chemistry in Titan's Lakes

  1. Jul 31, 2016 #1
    When laypeople hear about rain and liquid bodies on Titan's surface, they get excited over the possibility of lifeforms to whom liquid methane or ethane is like water to us. But I keep hearing that chemistry needs heat, and there's just not enough of it on Titan for any interesting chemistry to happen. My question is: What sorts of chemistry, if any, could happen inside Titan's hydrocarbon lakes at those frigid temperatures?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 1, 2016 #2


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  4. Aug 8, 2016 #3
    This would also contain some information on the chemical process you're asking about:


    I always found this part to be particularly enticing:

    In 2005, astrobiologists Chris McKay and Heather Smith predicted that if methanogenic life is consuming atmospheric hydrogen in sufficient volume, it will have a measurable effect on the mixing ratio in the troposphere of Titan. The effects predicted included a level of acetylene much lower than otherwise expected, as well as a reduction in the concentration of hydrogen itself.
    Evidence consistent with these predictions was reported in June 2010 by Darrell Strobel of Johns Hopkins University, who analysed measurements of hydrogen concentration in the upper and lower atmosphere. Strobel found that the hydrogen concentration in the upper atmosphere is so much larger than near the surface that the physics of diffusion leads to hydrogen flowing downwards at a rate of roughly 1025 molecules per second. Near the surface the downward-flowing hydrogen apparently disappears. Another paper released the same month showed very low levels of acetylene on Titan's surface.

    There's could be other things that might cause what is described above, but it is still fascinating to see potential evidence that suggests it's possible.
  5. Aug 11, 2016 #4
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