NASA scientists have discovered a molecule in Saturn moon Titan’s atmosphere that has never been detected in any other atmosphere. In fact, many chemists have probably barely heard of this molecule called cyclopropenylidene, or C3H2.
This simple carbon-based molecule may be a precursor to more complex compounds that could form or feed possible life on Titan, according to scientists. Researchers found C3H2 by using a radio telescope observatory in northern Chile known as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), said a study published in the ‘Astronomical Journal’. They noticed C3H2, which is made of carbon and hydrogen, while sifting through a spectrum of unique light signatures collected by the telescope. “When I realised I was looking at cyclopropenylidene, my first thought was, ‘Well, this is really unexpected,’” said Conor Nixon, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who led the ALMA search. Though scientists have found C3H2 in pockets throughout the galaxy, finding it in an atmosphere was a surprise.