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Spatial variations of low mass negative ions in Titan's upper atmosphere

Mihailescu, T; Desai, R; Shebanits, O; Haythornthwaite, R; Wellbrock, A; Coates, A; Eastwood, J; (2020) Spatial variations of low mass negative ions in Titan's upper atmosphere. The Planetary Science Journal , 1 (2) , Article 50. 10.3847/PSJ/abb1ba. Green open access

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Abstract

Observations with Cassini's Electron Spectrometer discovered negative ions in Titan's ionosphere, at altitudes between 1400 and 950 km. Within the broad mass distribution extending up to several thousand amu, two distinct peaks were identified at 25.8–26.0 and 49.0–50.1 amu/q, corresponding to the carbon chain anions CN^{−} and/or C_{2}H^{-} for the first peak and C_{3}N^{−} and/or C_{4}H^{−} for the second peak. In this study we present the spatial distribution of these low-mass negative ions from 28 Titan flybys with favorable observations between 2004 October 26 and 2012 May 22. We report a trend of lower densities on the night side and increased densities up to twice as high on the day side at small solar zenith angles. To further understand this trend, we compare the negative ion densities to the total electron density measured by Cassini's Langmuir Probe. We find the low-mass negative ion density and the electron density to be proportional to each other on the day side but independent of each other on the night side. This indicates photochemical processes and is in agreement with the primary production route for the low-mass negative ions being initiated by dissociative reactions with suprathermal electron populations produced by photoionisation. We also find the ratio of CN^{-}/C_{2}H^{-} to C_{3}N^{-}/C_{4}H^{-} to be highly constrained on the day side, in agreement with this production channel, but notably displaying large variations on the night side.

Type: Article
Title: Spatial variations of low mass negative ions in Titan's upper atmosphere
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3847/PSJ/abb1ba
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.3847/PSJ/abb1ba
Language: English
Additional information: © 2021 IOP Publishing. Original content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Space and Climate Physics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10111618
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