Titan Science with the James Webb Space Telescope

Conor A. Nixon, Richard K. Achterberg, Máté Ádámkovics, Bruno Bézard, Gordon L. Bjoraker, Thomas Cornet, Alexander G. Hayes, Emmanuel Lellouch, Mark T. Lemmon, Manuel López-Puertas, Sébastien Rodriguez, Christophe Sotin, Nicholas A. Teanby, Elizabeth P. Turtle, Robert A. West

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

12 Citations (Scopus)
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The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), scheduled for launch in 2018, is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) but with a significantly larger aperture (6.5 m) and advanced instrumentation focusing on infrared science (0.6–28.0 μm). In this paper, we examine the potential for scientific investigation of Titan using JWST, primarily with three of the four instruments: NIRSpec, NIRCam, and MIRI, noting that science with NIRISS will be complementary. Five core scientific themes are identified: (1) surface (2) tropospheric clouds (3) tropospheric gases (4) stratospheric composition, and (5) stratospheric hazes. We discuss each theme in depth, including the scientific purpose, capabilities, and limitations of the instrument suite and suggested observing schemes. We pay particular attention to saturation, which is a problem for all three instruments, but may be alleviated for NIRCam through use of selecting small sub-arrays of the detectors—sufficient to encompass Titan, but with significantly faster readout times. We find that JWST has very significant potential for advancing Titan science, with a spectral resolution exceeding the Cassini instrument suite at near-infrared wavelengths and a spatial resolution exceeding HST at the same wavelengths. In particular, JWST will be valuable for time-domain monitoring of Titan, given a five- to ten-year expected lifetime for the observatory, for example, monitoring the seasonal appearance of clouds. JWST observations in the post-Cassini period will complement those of other large facilities such as HST, ALMA, SOFIA, and next-generation ground-based telescopes (TMT, GMT, EELT).

Original languageEnglish
Article number018007
Number of pages23
JournalPublications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Issue number959
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2016


  • Infrared: planetary system
  • Plants and satellites: individual (Titan)
  • Telescopes

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