In situ measurements of the physical characteristics of Titan's environment.

LESIA, Observatoire de Paris, 5 Place Janssen, 92195 Meudon, France. [2
Nature (Impact Factor: 42.35). 01/2006; 438(7069):785-91. DOI: 10.1038/nature04314
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT On the basis of previous ground-based and fly-by information, we knew that Titan's atmosphere was mainly nitrogen, with some methane, but its temperature and pressure profiles were poorly constrained because of uncertainties in the detailed composition. The extent of atmospheric electricity ('lightning') was also hitherto unknown. Here we report the temperature and density profiles, as determined by the Huygens Atmospheric Structure Instrument (HASI), from an altitude of 1,400 km down to the surface. In the upper part of the atmosphere, the temperature and density were both higher than expected. There is a lower ionospheric layer between 140 km and 40 km, with electrical conductivity peaking near 60 km. We may also have seen the signature of lightning. At the surface, the temperature was 93.65 +/- 0.25 K, and the pressure was 1,467 +/- 1 hPa.

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    ABSTRACT: This model is worked out in the frame of physical mechanisms proposed in previous studies accounting for the generation and the observation of an atypical Schumann Resonance (SR) during the descent of the Huygens Probe in the Titan’s atmosphere on 14 January 2005. While Titan is staying inside the subsonic co-rotating magnetosphere of Saturn, a secondary magnetic field carrying an Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) modulation is shown to be generated through ion-acoustic instabilities of the Pedersen current sheets induced at the interface region between the impacting magnetospheric plasma and Titan’s ionosphere. The stronger induced magnetic field components are focused within field-aligned arcs-like structures hanging down the current sheets, with minimum amplitude of about 0.3 nT throughout the ramside hemisphere from the ionopause down to the Moon surface, including the icy crust and its interface with a conductive water ocean. The deep penetration of the modulated magnetic field in the atmosphere is thought to be allowed thanks to the force balance between the average temporal variations of thermal and magnetic pressures within the field-aligned arcs. However, there is a first cause of diffu- sion of the ELF magnetic components, probably due to feeding one, or eventually several SR eigenmodes. A second leakage source is ascribed to a system of eddy-Foucault currents assumed to be induced through the buried water ocean. The amplitude spectrum distribution of the induced ELF magnetic field compo- nents inside the SR cavity is found fully consistent with the measurements of the Huygens wave-field strength. Waiting for expected future in-situ exploration of Titan’s lower atmosphere and the surface, the Huygens data are the only experimental means available to date for constraining the proposed model.
    Icarus 01/2015; 247 (2015) 126-136. DOI:10.1016/j.icarus.2014.10.005 · 2.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract
    Planetary and Space Science 12/2014; 104, Part A:59-77. DOI:10.1016/j.pss.2014.10.002 · 1.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We investigate the effects of varying Saturn’s orbit on the atmospheric circulation and surface methane distribution of Titan. Using a new general circulation model of Titan’s atmosphere, we simulate its climate under four characteristic configurations of orbital parameters that correspond to snapshots over the past 42 kyr, capturing the amplitude range of long-period cyclic variations in eccentricity and longitude of perihelion. The model, which covers pressures from the surface to 0.5 mbar, reproduces the present-day temperature profile and tropospheric superrotation. In all four simulations, the atmosphere efficiently transports methane poleward, drying out the low- and mid-latitudes, indicating that these regions have been desert-like for at least tens of thousands of years. Though circulation patterns are not significantly different, the amount of surface methane that builds up over either pole strongly depends on the insolation distribution; in the present-day, methane builds up preferentially in the north, in agreement with observations, where summer is milder but longer. The same is true, to a lesser extent, for the configuration 14 kyr ago, while the south pole gains more methane in the case for 28 kyr ago, and the system is almost symmetric 42 kyr ago. This confirms the hypothesis that orbital forcing influences the distribution of surface liquids, and that the current observed asymmetry could have been partially or fully reversed in the past. The evolution of the orbital forcing implies that the surface reservoir is transported on timescales of ∼30 kyr, in which case the asymmetry reverses with a period of ∼125 kyr. Otherwise, the orbital forcing does not produce a net asymmetry over longer timescales, and is not a likely mechanism for generating the observed dichotomy.
    Icarus 09/2014; 243:264–273. DOI:10.1016/j.icarus.2014.08.042 · 2.84 Impact Factor

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