Methane absorption coefficients for the jovian planets from laboratory, Huygens, and HST data

Erich Karkoschka, Martin G. Tomasko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


We use 11 data sets of methane transmission measurements within 0.4-5.5 μm wavelength to model the methane transmission for temperature and pressure conditions in the jovian planets. Eight data sets are based on published laboratory measurements. Another two data sets come from two spectrometers onboard the Huygens probe that measured methane absorption inside Titan's atmosphere (Tomasko et al., 2008b, PSS 56, 624), and we provide a refined analysis. The last data set is a set of new Jupiter images by the Hubble Space Telescope to measure atmospheric transmission with Ganymede as the light source. Below 1000 nm wavelength, our resulting methane absorption coefficients are generally close to those by Karkoschka (1998, Icarus 133, 134), but we add descriptions of temperature and pressure dependence. One remaining inconsistency occurs between 882 and 902 nm wavelength where laboratory data predict larger absorptions in the jovian atmospheres than observed. We present possible explanations. Above 1000 nm, our analysis of the Huygens data confirms methane absorption coefficients by Irwin et al. (2006, Icarus 181, 309) at their laboratory temperatures. Huygens data also confirm Irwin's model of extrapolation to Titan's lower pressures. However, their model of extrapolation to Titan's lower temperatures predicts absorption coefficients up to 100 times lower than measured by Huygens. For each of ∼3700 wavelengths, we present a temperature dependence that is consistent with all laboratory data and the Huygens data. Since the Huygens data probe similar temperatures as many observations of Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Titan, our methane model will allow more reliable radiative transfer models for their atmospheres.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)674-694
Number of pages21
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010


  • Abundances, Atmospheres
  • Atmospheres, Composition
  • Jovian planets
  • Radiative transfer
  • Spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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