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Carbonization in Titan Tholins: implication for low albedo on surfaces of Centaurs and trans-Neptunian objects

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 December 2015

Chaitanya Giri*
Affiliation:
Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 3, 37077 Göttingen, Germany Institut de Chimie de Nice, University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, CNRS UMR 7272, 28 Avenue Valrose, 06108 Nice Cedex 2, France
Christopher P. McKay
Affiliation:
Space Science Division, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035, USA
Fred Goesmann
Affiliation:
Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 3, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
Nadine Schäfer
Affiliation:
Geoscience Centre, Department of Geobiology, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Goldschmidtstraße 3, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
Xiang Li
Affiliation:
Center for Research and Exploration in Space Science & Technology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD 21250, USA
Harald Steininger
Affiliation:
Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 3, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
William B. Brinckerhoff
Affiliation:
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
Thomas Gautier
Affiliation:
Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 3, 37077 Göttingen, Germany NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
Joachim Reitner
Affiliation:
Geoscience Centre, Department of Geobiology, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Goldschmidtstraße 3, 37077 Göttingen, Germany Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Theaterstraße 7, 37073 Göttingen, Germany
Uwe J. Meierhenrich
Affiliation:
Institut de Chimie de Nice, University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, CNRS UMR 7272, 28 Avenue Valrose, 06108 Nice Cedex 2, France
*

Abstract

Astronomical observations of Centaurs and trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) yield two characteristic features – near-infrared (NIR) reflectance and low geometric albedo. The first feature apparently originates due to complex organic material on their surfaces, but the origin of the material contributing to low albedo is not well understood. Titan tholins synthesized to simulate aerosols in the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan have also been used for simulating the NIR reflectances of several Centaurs and TNOs. Here, we report novel detections of large polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nanoscopic soot aggregates and cauliflower-like graphite within Titan tholins. We put forth a proof of concept stating the surfaces of Centaurs and TNOs may perhaps comprise of highly ‘carbonized’ complex organic material, analogous to the tholins we investigated. Such material would apparently be capable of contributing to the NIR reflectances and to the low geometric albedos simultaneously.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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