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Implications of internal processes in the interpretation of Titan's volatile inventory measured by Cassini-Huygens

By Gabriel Tobie, D. Gautier, F. Hersant and J.I. Lunine


Based on a series of data collected by Cassini-Huygens, we constrain the composition of the primordial bricks that formed Titan and quantify the chemical exchanges that occurred on Titan between the interior and the atmosphere since its accretion. Assuming that the bricks that formed Titan had a composition close to that of Enceladus and that of the planetesimals in the feeding zone of Saturn, we show that accretional melting generate an CH4-CO2-H2S - dominated atmosphere of more than 10 bars in equilibrium with a water ocean. The partial atmospheric pressure of ammonia remains low (< 0.01 bar for T< 300 K) owing to its high solubility in liquid water. Photochemical conversion of atmospheric ammonia into nitrogen is possible just after accretion but requires the water ocean remains in contact with the atmosphere during at least 10-50 millions of years. We show that most of the gas species, except N2 and 36Ar, released during accretion are likely to be re-incorporated in the interior during the post-accretional cooling phase, owing to efficient clathration at the water/ocean interface. During this process, xenon is predicted to be almost entirely removed from the primitive atmosphere and to be stored in the form of clathrate hydrate in the interior. The composition of gases released during the rest of the evolution is determined by the stability of each gas species relative to the clathrate phase and is expected to be dominated by CH4 and CO2, and to contain small amounts of argon and CO. It can be anticipated from our analysis that flows and deposits of CO2-rich materials would be associated to cryovolcanic events. Although the detection of 40Ar clearly support that interaction with the silicate phase has occurred during Titan's history, it is still unclear if significant chemical exchanges has occurred with the rocky core. Only detection of 38Ar and of the other noble gas isotopes by a future mission will permit to determine how the silicate phase has contributed to the volatile budget of Titan. Isotopic ratios in the surface materials (H2O, CO2 ice, organic matters, gas clathrate ammonia hydrate) will also permit to identify the probable volatile reservoir in Titan's interior as well as the release mechanism

Topics: [SDU.ASTR.SR] Sciences of the Universe [physics]/Astrophysics [astro-ph]/Solar and Stellar Astrophysics [astro-ph.SR], [PHYS.ASTR.SR] Physics [physics]/Astrophysics [astro-ph]/Solar and Stellar Astrophysics [astro-ph.SR]
Publisher: HAL CCSD
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:HAL:hal-00521737v1
Provided by: Hal-Diderot
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