Cassini observations present glimpse into Titans relationship with Earth
Observations of Titans atmosphere offer a unique look at how Saturns giant moon compares to Earth.
Titan is the only moon in the solar system with a substantial atmosphere. Like Earth, Titans atmosphere is primarily composed of nitrogen, but unlike Earth, one of the most abundant constituents is methane (CH4). The Huygens probe will determine if the abundance of argon exceeds that of methane. Methane, the main component in natural gas, plays a key role in the make-up of atmospheric conditions on Titan.
The organic chemistry that occurs in Titans atmosphere is an analog of the processes that may have been present in the early terrestrial atmosphere. The research appears in the May 13 edition of the journal Science. Using an infrared spectrometer on the Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft, researchers have measured the temperature, winds and chemical composition of Titan.
Edward Wishnow of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory participated in the research by measuring the spectrum of methane in the laboratory at temperatures and densities similar to Titans - about 113 Kelvin (-256 degrees F) and about one atmosphere pressure. The measurements were performed with a unique spectrometer and cryogenic gas absorption cell in collaboration with H. Gush and I. Ozier at the University of British Columbia, and G. Orton at the Jet Propulsion Lab.
"Titans spectrum shows sharp emission lines that arise due to methane in the stratosphere that is warmer than the underlying denser atmospheric layers," Wishnow said. The correspondence between the lab and Titan spectra is obvious and the strength of the laboratory lines is used to ascertain the abundance of methane in Titans upper atmosphere, he said.
The Cassini Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) is an instrument that measures the intensity of far-infrared radiation, light with wavelengths between those of radar and near-infrared light. These wavelengths are associated with radiation emission by the constituent gases of Titans atmosphere. Other researchers on the project discovered that Titan exhibits seasonal changes in its stratospheric temperatures and winds that are similar to Earths.
"Part of the exhilaration of our scientific exploration comes from understanding how Titan is similar to Earth as well as how it differs," said CIRS principal investigator F. Michael Flasar of NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "The CIRS observations of Titans stratosphere indicate that its winter (northern) pole has many properties in common with Earths: cold temperatures, strong circumpolar winds and anomalous concentrations of several compounds (on Titan, organic molecules) that are reminiscent of conditions within the winter polar regions on Earth, the so-called ozone holes. In both cases the essential ingredient is the strong winds, which isolate the polar air and inhibit mixing with that at lower latitudes."
Anne Stark | EurekAlert!
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...