EVOLUTION OF THE STRATOSPHERIC TEMPERATURE AND CHEMICAL COMPOSITION OVER ONE TITANIAN YEAR

Athena Coustenis*, G. Bampasidis, R. K. Achterberg, P. Lavvas, D. E. Jennings, C. A. Nixon, N. A. Teanby, S. Vinatier, F. M. Flasar, R. C. Carlson, G. Orton, P. N. Romani, E. A. Guandique, S. Stamogiorgos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Abstract

Since the Voyager 1 (V1) flyby in 1980, Titan's exploration from space and the ground has been ongoing for more than a full revolution of Saturn around the Sun (one Titanian year or 29.5 Earth years had elapsed in 2010 May). In this study, we search for temporal variations affecting Titan's atmospheric thermal and chemical structure within that year. We process Cassini/CIRS data taken during the Titan flybys from 2006-2013 and find a rather uneventful equatorial evolution. Conversely, at northern latitudes, we found enhanced abundances around the period of the northern spring equinox in mid-2009, which subsequently decreased (from 2010 to 2012), returning to values similar to those found in the V1 epoch, one Titanian year before. In the southern latitudes, since 2012, we see a trend for an increase of several trace gases (C4H2, C3H4, and HCN), indicative of a seasonal atmospheric reversal setting in. When we compare the CIRS 2010 and the 1980 V1/IRIS spectra (reanalyzed here), we find limited inter-annual variations. A return to the 1980 stratospheric temperatures and abundances is generally achieved from 50 degrees N to 50 degrees S, indicative of the solar radiation being the dominating energy source at 10 AU, as for the Earth, as predicted by general circulation and photochemical models. Exceptions concern the most complex hydrocarbons (C4H2 and C3H4). We also consider data from ground-based and Earth-orbiting observatories (such as from the Infrared Space Observatory, revisited here) and discuss possible atmospheric composition trends during a Titanian year.

Original languageEnglish
Article number177
Number of pages9
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume779
Issue number2
Early online date4 Dec 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2013

Keywords

  • molecular processes
  • planets and satellites: atmospheres
  • planets and satellites: composition
  • planets and satellites: individual (Titan)
  • radiation mechanisms: thermal
  • VOYAGER INFRARED OBSERVATIONS
  • ISOTOPIC-RATIOS
  • ATMOSPHERIC TEMPERATURES
  • HETERODYNE OBSERVATIONS
  • VERTICAL DISTRIBUTIONS
  • SPECTROSCOPIC DATABASE
  • ETHANE ABUNDANCE
  • CASSINI/CIRS
  • SPECTRA
  • HCN

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