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Neptune's atmospheric composition from AKARI infrared spectroscopy

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journal contribution
posted on 21.10.2019, 10:32 by LN Fletcher, P Drossart, M Burgdorf, GS Orton, T Encrenaz
Aims. Disk-averaged infrared spectra of Neptune between 1.8 and 13 μm, obtained by the AKARI infrared camera (IRC) in May 2007, have been analysed to (a) determine the globally-averaged stratospheric temperature structure; (b) derive the abundances of stratospheric hydrocarbons; and (c) detect fluorescent emission from CO at 4.7 μm. Methods. Mid-infrared spectra (SG1 and SG2 channels of AKARI/IRC), with spectral resolutions of 47 and 34 respectively, were modelled using a line-by-line radiative transfer code to determine the temperature structure between 1–1000 μbar and the abundances of CH4, CH3D and higher-order hydrocarbons. A full non-LTE radiative model was then used to determine the best fitting CO profile to reproduce the fluorescent emission observed at 4.7 μm in the NG channel (with a spectral resolution of 135). Results. The globally-averaged stratospheric temperature structure is quasi-isothermal between 1–1000 μbar, which suggests little variation in global stratospheric conditions since studies by the Infrared Space Observatory a decade earlier. The derived CH4 mole fraction of (9.0 ± 3.0)× 10-4 at 50 mbar, decreasing to (0.9 ± 0.3)× 10-4 at 1 μbar, is larger than that expected if the tropopause at 56 K acts as an efficient cold trap, but consistent with the hypothesis that CH4 leaking through the warm south polar tropopause (62–66 K) is globally redistributed by stratospheric motion. The ratio of D/H in CH4 of 3.0 ± 1.0 × 10-4 supports the conclusion that Neptune is enriched in deuterium relative to the other giant planets. We determine a mole fraction of ethane of (8.5 ± 2.1)× 10-7 at 0.3 mbar, consistent with previous studies, and a mole fraction of ethylene of 5.0 × 10-7 at 2.8 μbar. An emission peak at 4.7 μm is interpreted as a fluorescent emission of CO, and requires a vertical distribution with both external and internal sources of CO. Finally, comparisons to previous L-band studies indicate significant variability of Neptune's flux densities in the 3.5–4.1 μm range, related to changes in solar energy deposition.


This work is based on observations with AKARI, a JAXA project with the participation of ESA. Fletcher was supported by an appointment to the NASA Postdoctoral Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, administered by Oak Ridge Associated Universities through a contract with NASA. Orton carried out part of this research at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with NASA.



Astronomy and Astrophysics, 2010, 514, A17

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/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING/Department of Physics and Astronomy


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EDP Sciences for European Southern Observatory (ESO)



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