Why does Titan's atmosphere not start to burn?

  • If Titan has a methane atmosphere and seas of methane, then why doesn't some meteoroid / chemical reaction ignite and blow the whole thing?

    It is a very legitimate question, please don't misinterpret me. I have upvoted it. But that "blow the whole thing" together with the mental picture it suggests, suddenly made laugh like hell.

    Maybe i have seen too many sci-fi movies.

    I love sci-fi too, and have read nearly all that Philip Dick wrote. The question is ok, it's just the lack of oxigen in that atmosphere what prevents "the whole thing to blow" (I am happy I have learnt that expression, my english has improved a bit!). Having the enormous amount of $O_{2}$ we have in our Earth atmosphere is a very rare thing. It is sustained by algae and plants. Otherwise, oxygen would be combined with other things, like it happens in Mars, and you would not be able to light a match here.

    If a water ice meteor colided with it, it would also bring oxygen as H2 O. Wouldn't that ignite?

    @Robert You'd probably get some reaction, because CO2 bonds are stronger than H2O bonds:http://www.chemguide.co.uk/physical/energetics/bondenthalpies.html Since it's hard to ignite gasoline under water, I expect you'd see a far slower reaction than what we usually call fire.

  • Arne

    Arne Correct answer

    9 years ago

    Titan is one of Saturn's moons. Titan has a dense atmosphere, at about 1.5 bars. It also seems to have lakes of liquid methane.

    For a conventional combustion, you would need a good Methane-Oxygen mix. Every combustion is basically an oxidization. Apart from very energetic events, such as SL9 hitting Jupiter, you will need quite a bit of oxygen to get a nice, explosive fireball in Titan's atmosphere.

    According to Wikipedia, you need two Oxygen molecules for every Methane molecule you want to burn.

    While it is a few degrees C above Methane's ignition point, Titan's surface temperature is very cold compared to Earth, which can't help.

    @GreenMatt assuming that the kinetic energy released in a large enough impact locally raises the temperature to a few thousand degrees, that seems negligible?

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