Photometry and polarimetry of Titan: Pioneer 11 observations and their implications for aerosol properties

Martin G. Tomasko, Peter H. Smith

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109 Scopus citations


The preliminary measurements by Pioneer 11 of the limb darkening and polarization of Titan at red and blue wavelenghts (M. G. Tomasko, 1980, J. Geophys. Res., 85, 5937-5942) are refined and the measurements of the brightness of the integrated disk at phase angles from 22 to 96° are reduced. At 28° phase, Titan's reflectivity in blue light at southern latitudes is as much as 25% greater than that at northern latitudes, comparable to the values observed by Voyager 1 (L. A. Sromovsky et al., 1981, Nature (London), 292, 698-702). In red light the reflectivity is constant to within a few percent for latitudes between 40°S and 60°N. Titan's phase coefficient between 22 and 96° phase angle averages about 0.014 magnitudes/degree in both colors-a value considerably greater than that observed at smaller phase from the Earth. Comparisons of the data with vertically homogeneous multiple-scattering models indicate that the single-scattering phase functions of the aerosols in both colors are rather flat at scattering angles between 80 and 150° with a small peak at larger scattering (i.e., small phase) angles. The models indicate that the phase integral, q, for Titan in both red and blue light is about 1.66 ± 0.1. Together with Younkin's value for the bolometric geometric albedo scaled to a radius of 2825 km, this implies an effective temperature in equilibrium with sunlight of 84 ± 2°K, in agreement with recent thermal measurements. The single-scattering polarizations produced by the particles at 90° scattering angle are quite large, >85% in blue light and >95% in red. A vertically homogeneous model in which the particles are assumed to scatter as spheres cannot simultaneously match the polarization observations in both colors for any refractive index. However, the observed polarizations are most sensitive to the particle properties near optical depth 1 2 in each color, and so models based on single scattering by spheres can be successful over a range of refractive indices if the size of the particles increases with depth and if the cross section of the particles increases sufficiently rapidly with decreasing wavelenght. For example, with nr = 1.70, the polarization (and the photometry) are reproduced reasonably well in both colors when the area-weighted average radous of the particles, α, is given by α = (0.117 μm)(τred/0.5)0.217. While this model does not reproduce the large increase in brightness from 129 to 160° phase observed by Voyager 1, the observed increase is determined by the properties of the particles in the top few hundredths of an optical depth. Thus the addition of a very thin layer of forward-scattering aerosols on top of the above model offers one way of satisfying both the Pioneer 11 and Voyager 1 observations. Of course, other models, using bimodal size distributions or scattering by nonspherical particles, may also be capable of reproducing these data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-95
Number of pages31
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1982

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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