The composition of Titan's stratosphere from Cassini/CIRS mid-infrared spectra

Athena Coustenis*, Richard K. Achterberg, Barney J. Conrath, Donald E. Jennings, Andre Marten, Daniel Gautier, Conor A. Nixon, F. Michael Flasar, Nick A. Teanby, Bruno Bezard, Robert E. Samuelson, Ronald C. Carlson, Emmanuel Lellouch, Gordon L. Bjoraker, Paul N. Romani, Fred W. Taylor, Patrick G. J. Irwin, Thierry Fouchet, Augustin Hubert, Glenn S. OrtonVirgil G. Kunde, Sandrine Vinatier, Jacqueline Mondellini, Mian M. Abbas, Regis Courtin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

285 Citations (Scopus)


We have analyzed data recorded by the Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) aboard the Cassini spacecraft during the Titan flybys T0-T10 (July 2004-January 2006). The spectra characterize various regions on Titan from 70 degrees S to 70 degrees N with a variety of emission angles. We study the molecular signatures observed in the mid-infrared CIRS detector arrays (FP3 and FP4, covering roughly the 600-1500 cm(-1) spectral range with apodized resolutions of 2.54 or 0.53 cm(-1)). The composite spectrum shows several molecular signatures: hydrocarbons, nitrites and CO2. A firm detection of benzene (C6H6) is provided by CIRS at levels of about 3.5 x 10(-9) around 70 degrees N. We have used temperature profiles retrieved from the inversion of the emission observed in the methane nu(4) band at 1304 cm(-1) and a line-by-line radiative transfer code to infer the abundances of the trace constituents and some of their isotopes in Titan's stratosphere. No longitudinal variations were found for these gases. Little or no change is observed generally in their abundances from the south to the equator. On the other hand, meridional variations retrieved for these trace constituents from the equator to the North ranged from almost zero (no or very little meridional variations) for C2H2, C2H6, C3H8, C2H4 and CO2 to a significant enhancement at high northern (early winter) latitudes for HCN, HC3N, C4H2, C3H4 and C6H6. For the more important increases in the northern latitudes, the transition occurs roughly between 30 and 50 degrees north latitude, depending on the molecule. Note however that the very high-northern latitude results from tours TB-T10 bear large uncertainties due to few available data and problems with latitude smearing effects. The observed variations are consistent with some, but not all, of the predictions from dynamical-photochemical models. Constraints are set on the vertical distribution of C2H2, found to be compatible with 2-D equatorial predictions by global circulation models. The D/H ratio in the methane on Titan has been determined from the CH3D band at 1156 cm(-1) and found to be 1.17(-0.28)(+0.23) x 10(-4). Implications of this deuterium enrichment, with respect to the protosolar abundance on the origin of Titan, are discussed. We compare our results with values retrieved by Voyager IRIS observations taken in 1980, as well as with more recent (1997) disk-averaged Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) results and with the latest Cassini-Huygens inferences from other instruments in an attempt to better comprehend the physical phenomena on Titan. (c) 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-62
Number of pages28
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007


  • infrared observations
  • Satellites, atmospheres
  • Titan

Cite this

Coustenis, A., Achterberg, R. K., Conrath, B. J., Jennings, D. E., Marten, A., Gautier, D., Nixon, C. A., Flasar, F. M., Teanby, N. A., Bezard, B., Samuelson, R. E., Carlson, R. C., Lellouch, E., Bjoraker, G. L., Romani, P. N., Taylor, F. W., Irwin, P. G. J., Fouchet, T., Hubert, A., ... Courtin, R. (2007). The composition of Titan's stratosphere from Cassini/CIRS mid-infrared spectra. Icarus, 189(1), 35-62.