Structure of Titan's ionosphere: Model comparisons with Cassini data

I. P. Robertson, T. E. Cravens, J. H. Waite, R. V. Yelle, V. Vuitton, A. J. Coates, J. E. Wahlund, K. Ågren, K. Mandt, B. Magee, M. S. Richard, E. Fattig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Solar extreme ultraviolet and X-ray radiation and energetic plasma from Saturn's magnetosphere interact with the upper atmosphere producing an ionosphere at Titan. The highly coupled ionosphere and upper atmosphere system mediates the interaction between Titan and the external environment. New insights into Titan's ionosphere are being facilitated by data from several instruments onboard the Cassini Orbiter, although the Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) measurements will be emphasized here. We present dayside ionosphere models and compare the results with both Radio and Plasma Wave-Langmuir Probe (RPWS/LP) and INMS data, exploring the sensitivity of models to ionospheric chemistry schemes and solar flux variations. Modeled electron densities for the dayside leg of T18 and all of T17 (dayside) had reasonable agreement with the measured RPWS electron densities and INMS total ion densities. Magnetospheric inputs make at best minor contributions to the ionosphere for these flybys, at least for altitudes above about 1000 km. At lower (<1100 km) altitudes, the total ion densities measured by the INMS are less than the electron densities measured by the RPWS/LP which could be due to heavy (>100 daltons) ions, which the INMS is not able to detect. Qualitatively, INMS spectra exhibit the same ion species and 12 amu family separations for the dayside ionospheres of T17 and T18 as were seen in the mass spectra measured during T5 (nightside). However, the relative abundance of high-mass (m>50) ion species is about 10 times less for the dayside T17 and T18 passes than it was for the polar nightside T5 flyby, which can perhaps be explained in several ways including differences in neutral composition, less dissociative recombination on the nightside than on the dayside (due to lower electron densities and affecting heavier ion species more than lighter ones), and transport of longer-lived high-mass species from day-to-night.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1834-1846
Number of pages13
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Issue number14-15
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Atmospheres
  • Chemistry
  • Composition
  • Dayside
  • Ionospheres
  • Titan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Structure of Titan's ionosphere: Model comparisons with Cassini data'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this