An Experiment Simulating Titan’s Atmosphere, as Probed by a Hiden Mass Spectrometer
In the recent paper “An atmospheric origin for HCN-derived polymers on Titan” by Perrin et al. 2021 published in Processes MDPI, we highlighted that the prebiotic HCN molecule is an effective precursor of Titan’s haze and confirmed the HCN-derived polymer nature of the haze.
Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, hosts a thick nitrogen-based atmosphere, where HCN is also efficiently produced by endogenous atmospheric photochemistry. Titan is moreover surrounded by an organic photochemical haze, which was probed by the Cassini/Huygens space mission [Tomasko et al., 2008 ; Liang et al., 2007]. Its chemical composition has been studied by the Huygens space probe during its descent in Titan’s atmosphere in January 2005: HCN was found to be one of the main chemical signatures extracted from the aerosols after their pyrolysis and analysis by mass spectrometry [Israel et al., 2005]. These analyses pointed towards a hypothesis of HCN-derived polymer structure for Titan’s haze, but its chemical composition and formation process remained largely unknown.