Monday, November 20, 2017, 12:00pm to 1:00pm
"Detection and mapping of vinyl cyanide and other nitriles in Titan's Atmosphere - ingredients for non-aqueous biology?" Abstract: Studies of Titan's atmospheric chemistry provide a unique opportunity to explore the origin and evolution of complex organic matter in primitive planetary atmospheres. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is a powerful new telescope, well suited to the study of molecular emission from Titan's stratosphere and mesosphere. In this talk, I will report on the first spectroscopic detection of vinyl cyanide (C2H3CN), a molecule with potential astrobiological significance due to its theorized ability to combine into cell membrane-like structures under the cold conditions found in Titan's hydrocarbon lakes. Emission maps will be presented for this gas on Titan, and compared with the distributions of other nitriles observed with ALMA including HC3N, CH3CN, C2H5CN and HNC. The molecular abundance patterns are interpreted based on our understanding of Titan's high-altitude photochemistry and time-variable global circulation. Complementary results from our more recent (2017) nitrile mapping studies at higher spatial resolution will also be discussed.