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Titan: an overview Basic facts Motivation Radiative transfer Photochemistry Dynamics What do we see, and can we explain it? Titan’s possible future.

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Presentation on theme: "Titan: an overview Basic facts Motivation Radiative transfer Photochemistry Dynamics What do we see, and can we explain it? Titan’s possible future."— Presentation transcript:

1 Titan: an overview Basic facts Motivation Radiative transfer Photochemistry Dynamics What do we see, and can we explain it? Titan’s possible future

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3 Basic Titan facts I Moon of Saturn, and second largest moon in solar system (size is between Mercury and Mars) Slowly rotating (cf Venus), 1day ~ 16 Earth days Is also orbit time since Titan is tidally locked (cf our moon) => always has same side to Saturn ~ 674 Titan days per Titan year => ~ 29.5 Earth years per Titan year Inclined at 26.7° to the Sun (cf Earth’s ~23°) => Titan experiences seasons

4 Large moons and small planets Titan is the only one to have a significant atmosphere – probably it was big and cold enough to retain ammonia when the solar system formed (as ammonia hydrate ices). Titan is sufficiently cold that the nitrogen released to form the present atmosphere doesn’t suffer rapid Jeans escape.

5 Basic Titan facts II ~ 95% N 2 (cf Earth) P surf ~ 1.5 Bar (~ 1.5 x Earth) T surf ~ 90K (Earth ~ 288K) ~ 4%CH 4 – close to saturation, possibly supersaturated => CH 4 ‘hydrological’ cycle (cf H 2 O on Earth) Photochemistry is important (cf Earth, Venus) CH 4 is a ‘greenhouse gas’ (cf Earth) Stratospheric haze absorbs solar energy (cf O 3 in Earth’s stratosphere) and creates ‘anti-greenhouse’ effect

6 Titan’s atmosphere NB – 1D radiative transfer codes are able to produce matching temperature profiles by including what we know about Titan’s composition

7 Why the interest? 1.All the similarities and parallels with Earth 2.Link into planetary evolution 3.Cassini/Huygens mission Cassini should reach Saturn on July 1 st 2004, Huygens due to be released December 25 th this 2004, entering Titan’s atmosphere January 14 th 2005.

8 Why the interest? 1.All the similarities and parallels with Earth 2.Link into planetary evolution 3.Cassini/Huygens mission Cassini should reach Saturn on July 1 st 2004, Huygens due to be released December 25 th this 2004, entering Titan’s atmosphere January 14 th 2005.

9 The Cassini mission Cassini’s Saturn tour involves 44 close flybys of Titan Instruments used to examine Titan’s atmosphere and surface include cameras; ir, vis and uv mappers; radio science; and radar

10 The Huygens probe Huygens will take 2½ hours to descend through atmosphere Instruments include those to measure atmospheric structure during descent; surface imagers; spectral radiometers; solar sensors (giving aerosol data); in situ composition analysers; surface science package

11 Titan’s atmospheric structure Present understanding comes largely from Voyager observations Cassini’s 4 year + mission will only cover one Titan season, but will still greatly increase temporal and spatial coverage Voyager and Earth-based spectra indicate composition, important for explaining atmospheric T structure and past evolution

12 Radiative transfer on Titan I In lower atmosphere, ‘greenhouse’ effect due to collision-induced absorption of thermal radiation (H 2 -H 2, N 2 -CH 4, etc.) and absorption in vibration- rotation bands of gases with permanent dipole moments (e.g. CH 4 ) In upper atmosphere, ‘anti-greenhouse’ effect due to absorption of incoming solar radiation by haze particles UV (<400nm): Rayleigh scattering plus haze absorption VISIBLE ( nm): haze absorption (hides surface from human eyes)

13 Radiative transfer on Titan II IR (>750nm; <13,000cm ¯ ¹): haze scattering plus strong CH 4 absorption bands with windows to the surface between them Also see many emission features (see above) from species present in stratosphere (where T increases with height)

14 The Yung et al. photochemical model CH 4 = methane C 2 H 2 = acetylene C 2 H 6 = ethane C 2 H 4 = ethylene C 3 H 8 = propane C 4 H 2 = diacetylene CH 3 C 2 H = methylacetylene

15 Photochemistry, Titan’s haze and CH 4 loss Photodissociation products of N 2 & CH 4 recombine, form larger molecules which condense to form haze Sufficiently large particles will fall out May act as nucleation sites for CH 4 condensate Some will be ‘refractory’ => oily/solid substances which won’t re-evaporate => net loss of CH 4 Requires mechanism to replace CH 4, or total removal estimated in tens of millions of years This is significant, as the haze and most trace species are derived from CH 4 Surface oceans of C 2 H 6 -CH 4 suggested as source and sink of CH 4 cycle, but incompatible with high radar reflectivity and evidence of surface features Alternatives include outgassing from interior or methane clathrates

16 The meridional circulation A solution with no meridional flow, and radiative equilibrium surface temperatures everywhere, exists for frictionless flow However, friction requires a meridional flow (a ‘Hadley’ cell or cells) to exist within some region about the equator, with the v=0, radiative equilibrium regime allowed at higher latitudes Held and Hou’s model gives the latitude at which the solutions intersect (the latitude to which the Hadley cell extends): φ H = (5/3 x g H Δ H ) ½ / Ωa, (where H=tropopause height, Δ H =fractional drop in potential temperature between equator and poles, Ω=rotation rate and a=radius) => as Ωa decreases, Hadley cells extend further polewards => a nearly pole to pole Hadley cell exists around solstice

17 Equatorial superrotation EQ NP (wind speeds faster than surface speed) expected away from equator when conserving angular momentum (e.g. zonal jet in winter hemisphere) Superrotation at equator requires mechanism to deposit momentum here Gierasch mechanism found to be plausible in General Circulation Models

18 Limb brightening and the ‘smile’

19 Titan’s surface The bright features (seen in gaps between near IR CH 4 absorption bands) are thought to be regions of high IR albedo on the surface The dark regions may correspond to hydrocarbon oceans

20 Features strongly linked to dynamics 1.North-south albedo asymmetry: due to transport of haze to winter hemisphere by Hadley circulation. => darker in UV and visible (more haze absorption), brighter in IR (little absorption; mostly scattering). As expected, is observed to reverse every ~15 years 2.Polar hood: during polar night, chemical species normally destroyed by photolysis build up, and temperatures fall, encouraging these and other species to condense 3.The detached haze layer: this has recently been produced in general circulation models:

21 Simulation of the detached haze layer From Rannou, Hourdin and McKay, Nature 2002 Haze production occurs at the highest altitudes shown Away from equinox, the Hadley circulation transports haze down in altitude over the winter pole (here the north Haze is then spread out at this altitude and below, producing the main haze layer

22 The possible future of Titan If CH 4 did eventually run out, then the ‘greenhouse’ effect would be reduced (=> T surf ↓) But CH 4 is the basic ingredient required for the haze, hence the ‘anti-greenhouse’ effect would also be reduced (=> T surf ↑) However, less haze would also mean less heating in the stratosphere (=> T strat ↓) Plus no CH 4 would mean no more H 2 to balance that escaping to space, and H 2 is also an important greenhouse gas (=> T surf ↓) Lower temperatures overall would eventually lead to N 2 condensation, => P surf ↓ => atmospheric collapse


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