Atmospheric structure and helium abundance on Saturn from Cassini/UVIS and CIRS observations

T. T. Koskinen, S. Guerlet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


We combine measurements from stellar occultations observed by the Cassini Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) and limb scans observed by the Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) to create empirical atmospheric structure models for Saturn corresponding to the locations probed by the occultations. The results cover multiple locations at low to mid-latitudes between the spring of 2005 and the fall of 2015. We connect the temperature-pressure (T-P) profiles retrieved from the CIRS limb scans in the stratosphere to the T-P profiles in the thermosphere retrieved from the UVIS occultations. We calculate the altitudes corresponding to the pressure levels in each case based on our best fit composition model that includes H2, He, CH4 and upper limits on H. We match the altitude structure to the density profile in the thermosphere that is retrieved from the occultations. Our models depend on the abundance of helium and we derive a volume mixing ratio of 11 ± 2% for helium in the lower atmosphere based on a statistical analysis of the values derived for 32 different occultation locations. We also derive the mean temperature and methane profiles in the upper atmosphere and constrain their variability. Our results are consistent with enhanced heating at the polar auroral region and a dynamically active upper atmosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-171
Number of pages11
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • Atmospheres
  • Infrared observations
  • Occultations
  • Saturn
  • Structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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