Structure of Saturn's mesosphere from the 28 Sgr occultations

W. B. Hubbard, C. C. Porco, D. M. Hunten, G. H. Rieke, M. J. Rieke, D. W. McCarthy, V. Haemmerle, J. Haller, B. McLeod, L. A. Lebofsky, R. Marcialis, J. B. Holberg, R. Landau, L. Carrasco, J. Elias, M. W. Buie, E. W. Dunham, S. E. Persson, T. Boroson, S. WestR. G. French, J. Harrington, J. L. Elliot, W. J. Forrest, J. L. Pipher, R. J. Stover, A. Brahic, I. Grenier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


We analyze an extensive data set of immersion and emersion lightcurves of the occultation of 28 Sgr by Saturn's atmosphere on 3 July 1989. The data give profiles of number density as a function of altitude at a variety of latitudes, at pressures ranging from about 0.5 to about 20 μbar. The atmosphere is essentially isothermal in this range, with a temperature close to 140 K for an assumed mean molecular weight of 2.135. Owing to favorable ring geometry, an accurate radial scale is available for all observations, and we confirm the substantial equatorial bulge produced by zonal winds of ~450 m/s first observed in the Voyager radio-occultation experiments. The fact that the bulge is still present at microbar pressures suggests that the equatorial winds persist to high altitudes. According to our radial scale, the 2.4-μbar level, which corresponds to half-flux in the stellar occultations, is at an equatorial radius of 60,960 km. This radial scale is in good agreement with the Voyager radio-occultation data at mbar pressures and allows smooth interpolation of the isothermal structure between the stellar-occultation and radio-occultation regions. We do not have such a smooth interpolation between our data and Voyager ultraviolet occultation data, unless we discard the lowest 200 km of Voyager ultraviolet data. When this is done, we obtain a complete atmospheric model from an equatorial radius of 61,500 km down to an equatorial radius of 60,500 km. This model gives excellent agreement between all 28 Sgr, Voyager, and Pioneer 11 data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)404-425
Number of pages22
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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