The Universe is So Weird! There’s Plastic on Saturn’s Moon?


NASA scientists (via the spacecraft Cassini) have discovered a chemical on one of Saturn’s moons, that’s widely used in plastic production here on Earth.

The late George Carlin once noted that it’s quite possible humans were put on earth for one specific reason: to create plastic. “The earth doesn’t share our prejudice against plastic,” noted Carlin. “Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it anyway. It wanted plastic for itself.”

And Earth might not be alone in that quest with the discovery of the chemical propylene on Saturn’s moon. Propylene, which can be found in household items including plastic containers, carpets, paints and car bumpers, was detected on Titan. “This chemical is all around us in everyday life, strung together in long chains to form a plastic called polypropylene,” Conor Nixon, a NASA planetary scientist and lead author of a paper detailing the new research said in a statement. “That plastic container at the grocery store with the recycling code 5 on the bottom — that’s polypropylene.”

According to, “Scientists have found that hydrocarbons — which make up fossil fuels on Earth — form on Titan after sunlight breaks apart methane and the chemicals reform into chains of two or more carbons. Voyager found evidence of the heaviest three-carbon hydrocarbon, propane, and the spacecraft also discovered propyne — one of the lightest in the family.”

Titan is roughly half the size of Earth and the second largest moon in the solar system behind Jupiter’s Ganymede.

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Image: Hubble Heritage

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.