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Cassini/CIRS Observations of Water Vapor in Titan's Stratosphere

By R. K. Achterberg, D. E. Jennings, C. M. Anderson, R. C. Carlson, R. E. Samuelson and Gordon L. Bjoraker


The Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) on the Cassini spacecraft has obtained spectra of Titan during most of the 44 flybys of the Cassini prime mission. Water vapor on Titan was first detected using whole-disk observations from the Infrared Space Observatory (Coustenis et al 1998, Astron. Astrophys. 336, L85-L89). CIRS data permlt the retrieval of the latitudinal variation of water on Titan and some limited information on its vertical profile. Emission lines of H2O on Titan are very weak in the CIRS data. Thus, large spectral averages as well as improvements in calibration are necessary to detect water vapor. Water abundances were retrieved in nadir spectra at 55 South, the Equator, and at 19 North. Limb spectra of the Equator were also modeled to constrain the vertical distribution of water. Stratospheric temperatures in the 0.5 - 4.0 mbar range were obtained by inverting spectra of CH4 in the v4 band centered at 1304/cm. The temperature in the lower stratosphere (4 - 20 mbar) was derived from fitting pure rotation lines of CH4 between 80 and 160/cm. The origin of H2O and CO2 is believed to be from the ablation of micrometeorites containing water ice, followed by photochemistry. This external source of water originates either within the Saturn system or from the interplanetary medium. Recently, Horst et al (J. Geophys. Res. 2008, in press) developed a photochemical model of Titan in which there are two external sources of oxygen. Oxygen ions (probably from Enceladus) precipitate into Titan's atmosphere to form CO at very high altitudes (1100 km). Water ice ablation at lower altitudes (700 km) forms H2O and subsequent chemistry produces CO2. CIRS measurements of CO, CO2, and now of H2O will provide valuable constraints to these photochemical models and - improve our understanding of oxygen chemistry on Titan

Topics: Astronomy
Year: 2008
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