Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Titan - Exposed to large amounts of Oxygen

  1. Jun 23, 2010 #1
    Titan has rivers of liquid methane creeping in an atmosphere of mostly nitrogen. The lack of oxygen prevents the planet from being ridiculously unstable. Here’s my question -- If an asteroid rich in oxygen (or H2O) crashes into Titan, could the oxygen present in the projectile be enough to ignite a significant portion of the surface methane, enough to fundamentally change the physical structure of Titan?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 23, 2010 #2

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Sure. But even if Titan had no atmosphere, a big enough impact could "fundamentally change the physical structure of Titan".
  4. Jun 30, 2010 #3
    That and the cold. There is a lot of oxygen present in the form of frozen CO2 and H2O, but being frozen makes it rather less reactive.

    Well H2O won't ignite methane. And free oxygen doesn't typically exist in nature in cryogenic conditions i.e. in any asteroid likely to hit Titan. Edward Drobyshevski has proposed, for the last 30 years, that induced currents from moving magnetic fields (i.e. the Solar Wind) could cause ice to become electrolysed into free oxygen and hydrogen, slowly building up to explosive levels because they're trapped in the ice. Not too many other researchers think that likely, but it'd make a helluva bang!
  5. Jun 30, 2010 #4
    Interesting... thanks a lot!!!
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook