Tuesday, June 24, 2014


It’s a generally accepted theory that Planets arrived in a bang where as their moon minions were picked during millions and billions of years. Just traipsing through the galaxy or shoved from somewhere, moons just aren’t known for their staying power.

So imagine the surprise of the San Antonio led researchers when their research pointed to the possibility that Titan might have formed before its parent planet Saturn. Where do they trace its possible birth? To the Oort cloud – the same region that is the birth place of numerous comets.

According to the same tool/theory they are utilizing: the ratio of the Nitrogen, it can be argued that the Moon would seem to beolder than currently believed. This could also have implications for Earth as far as the origination of the Nitrogen.

To better understand this it is necessary to go back in time a bit, 4.6 billion years back. Back to the collapse of a giant molecular cloud. The Sun took shape at the heart of that same cloud, comets formed further out in colder regions. According to the new research Titan also formed in these colder regions before Saturn ever got its act together.

The evidence is found is little more than a chemical hint. Titan’s Nitrogen-14 (ratio of the isotope to Nitrogen-15)There is a small amount of change in this isotope ratio over long periods of time which allows researchers to compare it now versus then and get a decent picture of this item and others in the solar system.

In planetary atmospheres and surface materials, the specific amount of one form of an element, like nitrogen, relative to another form of that same element can be a powerful diagnostic tool because it is closely tied to the conditions under which materials form.

The team found that our solar system is not old enough for this nitrogen isotope ratio to have changed significantly. This is contrary to what scientists commonly assumed.

Obviously when considering such things one would want to be sure that it was formed though some other process. To consider processes that make something out of nothing a first suspect might be the Sun. Keep in mind, when at first it formed, it started off as a bundle of elements – helium and hydrogen among others. At the birth of our yellow friend there was nitrogen already present. That isn’t to say it is impossible to have hydrogen fuse to make a heavier element and then perhaps fuse again, and so on…(H=1 where as N=7) It is possible, just not probable.

I could go into the litany of places we find Nitrogen on Earth, but to save time suffice to say it is a part of our living biosphere. Sure Nitrogen and Oxygen are both intimately part of the life cycle of Earth but that chemicals cycle through this material on a short time scale relative to the geological processes that have, over time, made the earth what it is today (compositionally and physically). N and O are often found our biosphere & fossil organic matter. But only a small fraction of this element-less than 1%, is to be found on this planet.

I’m sure more will evolve from this new theory but for now it’s a kinda cool thought that a moon of Saturn may have come first. I wonder – did the chicken or the egg come first?

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