2010 Annual Science Report
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory - Titan Reporting | SEP 2009 – AUG 2010
Task 188.8.131.52 Atmospheric Observations
The observed organic haze in the Titan atmosphere is a result of abiotic atmospheric synthesis chemical processes.
Saturn’s moon Titan has a massive atmosphere laden with layers of photochemical haze. Co-Investigator Robert West in collaboration with Postdoctoral Fellow Panayotis Lavvas and others found a recent dramatic change in the vertical structure of this haze, with a persistent ‘detached’ layer dropping in altitude from over 500km to only 380km between 2007 and 2010 (Figure 1). The detached haze layer now appears to be a well-defined tracer for Titan’s meridional stratospheric circulation, models of which suggest that a pole-to-pole Brewer-Dobson cell weakens during equinox as solar heating becomes more symmetric. These measurements connect the Cassini observations with those made by Voyager almost one seasonal cycle earlier. They place detailed constraints on the seasonal circulation, on the sources of photochemical aerosols, on the microphysical processes, and on the complex interplay of these components.
PROJECT MEMBERS:Robert West
RELATED OBJECTIVES:Objective 1.1
Formation and evolution of habitable planets.
Outer Solar System exploration
Sources of prebiotic materials and catalysts
Origins and evolution of functional biomolecules
Origins of energy transduction