Energy deposition in Saturn's equatorial upper atmosphere

J. M. Chadney, Tommi T Koskinen, X. Hu, M. Galand, P. Lavvas, Y. C. Unruh, J. Serigano, S. M. Hörst, R. V. Yelle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


We construct Saturn equatorial neutral temperature and density profiles of H, H2, He, and CH4, between 10−12 and 1 bar using measurements from Cassini's Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) taken during the spacecraft's final plunge into Saturn's atmosphere on 15 September 2017, combined with previous deeper atmospheric measurements from the Cassini Composite InfraRed Spectrometer (CIRS) and from the UltraViolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS). These neutral profiles are fed into an energy deposition model employing soft X-ray and Extreme UltraViolet (EUV) solar fluxes at a range of spectral resolutions (Δλ=4×10−3nm to 1 nm) assembled from TIMED/SEE, from SOHO/SUMER, and from the Whole Heliosphere Interval (WHI) quiet Sun campaign. Our energy deposition model calculates ion production rate profiles through photo-ionisation and electron-impact ionisation processes, as well as rates of photo-dissociation of CH4. The ion reaction rate profiles we determine are important to obtain accurate ion density profiles, meanwhile methane photo-dissociation is key to initiate complex organic chemical processes. We assess the importance of spectral resolution in the energy deposition model by using a high-resolution H2 photo-absorption cross section, which has the effect of producing additional ionisation peaks near 800 km altitude. We find that these peaks are still formed when using low-resolution (Δλ=1nm) or mid-resolution (Δλ=0.1nm) solar spectra, as long as high-resolution cross sections are included in the model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114724
StatePublished - Jan 15 2022


  • Abundances, atmospheres
  • Aeronomy
  • Ionospheres
  • Photochemistry
  • Saturn, atmosphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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