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Energy Delivery via Meteors into Titan’s Atmosphere

Presentation #405.06 in the session “Titan Surface-Atmosphere Interaction”.

Published onOct 03, 2021
Energy Delivery via Meteors into Titan’s Atmosphere

The Cassini-Huygens mission measured the chemical abundances of the major components of Titan’s atmosphere, and analyses of the data revealed several as-yet unexplained anomalies in the methane and hydrogen profiles. We model the deceleration and ablation of meteors in Titan’s atmosphere to examine whether meteor energy deposition could explain, in part, two of these anomalies. Our simulations vary meteor entry mass, trajectory angle, and velocity, and follow changes in all three as our meteors descend into a realistic Titan atmosphere. For the smallest particles, which deliver the most mass and therefore energy to Titan, we find that the altitudes where energy deposition peaks correspond to those of the observed chemical anomalies. In the region directly above the anomalies, energy deposition by meteors is greater than energy deposition from ultraviolet photons, which are typically responsible for methane dissociation. Finally, we calculate the total amount of energy available for chemical reactions in question. Total meteor energy deposited is swamped by daytime ultraviolet light, but of course is the dominant source of energy for atmospheric chemistry at the relevant altitudes during the night.

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