Scientists have found an unknown gas in Titan’s upper atmosphere after analyzing data from the Cassini probe.
Saturn’s moon is the only moon in our solar system with a thick atmosphere comparable to the ones of the inner terrestrial planets. Titan’s atmosphere is mainly made of nitrogen, methane, and hydrogen.
Back in 2004 Cassini had found emissions in Titan’s high atmosphere at an altitude of 500 km. These gases were found to be hydrocarbons. However, upon further observation of the spectral region, García Comas, López Puertas from Spain, and other European astronomers determined other unknown gas was present in the moon. The emissions increased at an altitude of 900 km in Titan’s atmosphere. The emissions that were remotely observed did not fit any other bands in the known atmosphere. It had to be a new undetected band that the astronomers did not see before.
The findings were presented last year during the 2nd National Conference on Laboratory and Molecular Astrophysics in November. The astronomers announced that the emissions were hidden under a layer of methane. They concluded that the strong emission had to be part of another kind of gas. The scientists provisionally named the new band Agnostosphere and they believe its made of aromatic compounds. They also discovered that the band of gas is influenced by solar radiation since it is only found during Titan’s day. The astronomers think this new finding may help to explain the haze in Titan’s upper atmosphere observed by Cassini.