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The AMINO experiment: methane photolysis under Solar VUV irradiation on the EXPOSE-R facility of the International Space Station

  • Nathalie Carrasco (a1) (a2), Hervé Cottin (a3), Mégane Cloix (a3), Murielle Jérome (a3), Yves Bénilan (a3), Patrice Coll (a2) (a3), Marie-Claire Gazeau (a3), François Raulin (a3), Kafila Saiagh (a3), Didier Chaput (a4) and Cyril Szopa (a1)...

The scientific aim of the present campaign is to study the whole chain of methane photo-degradation, as initiated by Solar vacuum-ultraviolet irradiation in Titan's atmosphere. For this purpose, the AMINO experiment on the EXPOSE-R mission has loaded closed cells for gas-phase photochemistry in space conditions. Two different gas mixtures have been exposed, named Titan 1 and Titan 2, involving both N2–CH4 gas mixtures, without and with CO2, respectively. CO2 is added as a source of reactive oxygen in the cells. The cell contents were analysed thanks to infrared absorption spectroscopy, gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. Methane consumption leads to the formation of saturated hydrocarbons, with no detectable influence of CO2. This successful campaign provides a first benchmark for characterizing the whole methane photochemical system in space conditions. A thin film of tholin-like compounds appears to form on the cell walls of the exposed cells.

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International Journal of Astrobiology
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