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Volume 133, 2006
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Between heaven and Earth: the exploration of Titan

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The atmosphere of Titan represents a bridge between the early solar nebula and atmospheres like ours. The low abundances of primordial noble gases in Titan’s atmosphere relative to N2 suggest that the icy planetesimals that formed the satellite must have originated at temperatures higher than 75–100 K. Under these conditions, N2 would also be very poorly trapped and thus Titan’s nitrogen, like ours, must have arrived as nitrogen compounds, of which ammonia was likely the major component. This temperature constraint also argues against the trapping of methane. Production of this gas on the satellite after formation appears reasonable based on terrestrial examples of serpentinization, disproportionation and reduction of carbon. These processes require rocks, water, suitable catalysts and the variety of primordial carbon compounds that were plausibly trapped in Titan’s ices. Application of this same general scenario to Ganymede, Callisto, KBOs and conditions on the very early Earth seems promising.

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Publication details

The article was received on 05 Dec 2005, accepted on 13 Feb 2006 and first published on 13 Jul 2006

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/B517174A
Citation: Faraday Discuss., 2006,133, 387-391

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    Between heaven and Earth: the exploration of Titan

    T. C. Owen, H. Niemann, S. Atreya and M. Y. Zolotov, Faraday Discuss., 2006, 133, 387
    DOI: 10.1039/B517174A

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