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Developing a self‐consistent description of Titan's upper atmosphere without hydrodynamic escape

By Jared M. Bell, J. Hunter Waite, Joseph H. Westlake, Stephen W. Bougher, Aaron J. Ridley, Rebecca Perryman and Kathleen Mandt


In this study, we develop a best fit description of Titan's upper atmosphere between 500 km and 1500 km, using a one‐dimensional (1‐D) version of the three‐dimensional (3‐D) Titan Global Ionosphere‐Thermosphere Model. For this modeling, we use constraints from several lower atmospheric Cassini‐Huygens investigations and validate our simulation results against in situ Cassini Ion‐Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) measurements of N 2 , CH 4 , H 2 , 40 Ar, HCN, and the major stable isotopic ratios of 14 N/ 15 N in N 2 . We focus our investigation on aspects of Titan's upper atmosphere that determine the amount of atmospheric escape required to match the INMS measurements: the amount of turbulence, the inclusion of chemistry, and the effects of including a self‐consistent thermal balance. We systematically examine both hydrodynamic escape scenarios for methane and scenarios with significantly reduced atmospheric escape. Our results show that the optimum configuration of Titan's upper atmosphere is one with a methane homopause near 1000 km and atmospheric escape rates of 1.41–1.47 ×10 11 CH 4  m −2 s −1 and 1.08 ×10 14  H 2  m −2 s −1 (scaled relative to the surface). We also demonstrate that simulations consistent with hydrodynamic escape of methane systematically produce inferior fits to the multiple validation points presented here. Key Points The methane homopause is most likely near 1000 km altitude Hydrodynamic escape of methane is not required to match INMS Molecular hydrogen is best fit with a methane homopause of 1000 k

Publisher: Springer Verlag
Year: 2014
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.pss.2009.06.016.
OAI identifier:

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