Limits on the size of aerosols from measurements of linear polarization in Titan's atmosphere

M. G. Tomasko, L. R. Doose, L. E. Dafoe, C. See

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR) instrument on the Huygens probe into the atmosphere of Titan yielded information on the size, shape, optical properties, and vertical distribution of haze aerosols in the atmosphere of Titan [Tomasko, M.G., Doose, L., Engel, S., Dafoe, L.E., West, R., Lemmon, M., Karkoschka, E., 2008. Planet. Space Sci. 56, 669-707] from photometric and spectroscopic measurements of sunlight in Titan's atmosphere. This instrument also made measurements of the degree of linear polarization of sunlight in two spectral bands centered at 491 and 934 nm. Here we present the calibration and reduction of the polarization measurements and compare the polarization observations to models using fractal aggregate particles which have different sizes for the small dimension (monomer size) of which the aggregates are composed. We find that the Titan aerosols produce very large polarizations perpendicular to the scattering plane for scattering near 90° scattering angle. The size of the monomers is tightly constrained by the measurements to a radius of 0.04 ± 0.01 μm at altitudes from 150 km to the surface. The decrease in polarization with decreasing altitude observed in red and blue light is as expected by increasing dilution due to multiple scattering at decreasing altitudes. There is no indication of particles that produce small amounts of linear polarization at low altitudes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-283
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Titan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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