The phys.org articleSurprising chemical complexity of Saturn's rings changing planet's upper atmosphere about the chemical complexity of Saturn's rings, quotes a member of the INMS (Thomas Cravens) as saying,

What the paper is describing is the environment in the gap between the inner ring and upper atmosphere, and some of the things found were expected, such as water," Cravens said. "What was a surprise was the mass spectrometer saw methane—no one expected that. Also, it saw some carbon dioxide, which was unexpected. The rings were thought to be entirely water. But the innermost rings are fairly contaminated, as it turns out, with organic material caught up in ice. (italics and boldface are mine).

What is the nature of this organic material?

Does he simply mean a few carbon-based molecules like methane, propane, and butane, or maybe only methane, or is it a much more interesting cocktail of chemicals than that?

It also links to Chemical interactions between Saturn’s atmosphere and its rings published in Science, but the article is paywalled.

  • $\begingroup$ The primary author on that paper was also an author on this 2017 paper. Figure 1 in that paper shows a spectra, where it looks like they identified organic signatures, such as benzyl rings. While I didn't look past the paywall, my guess would be that they're probably doing the same. Since they're using such spectra, they're more able to detect components of the organics rather than the organics as a whole. This may make it difficult to qualify precisely how complex the organics are, beyond containing certain functional groups. $\endgroup$ – Nat Mar 23 '19 at 3:30

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