Large abundances of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Titan's upper atmosphere
Publication date: 06 June 2013
Authors: M. López-Puertas et al.
Journal: Astrophysical Journal
In this paper, we analyze the strong unidentified emission near 3.28 micron in Titan's upper daytime atmosphere recently discovered by Dinelli et al. We have studied it by using the NASA Ames PAH IR Spectroscopic Database. The polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), after absorbing UV solar radiation, are able to emit strongly near 3.3 micron. By using current models for the redistribution of the absorbed UV energy, we have explained the observed spectral feature and have derived the vertical distribution of PAHs abundances in Titan's upper atmosphere. PAHs have been found to be present in large concentrations, about 2-3×104 particles cm-3. The identified PAHs have 9-96 carbons, with a concentration-weighted average of 34 carbons. The mean mass is ~430 amu; the mean area is about 0.53 nm2; they are formed by 10-11 rings on average, and about one-third of them contain nitrogen atoms. Recently, benzene together with light aromatic species as well as small concentrations of heavy positive and negative ions have been detected in Titan's upper atmosphere. We suggest that the large concentrations of PAHs found here are the neutral counterpart of those positive and negative ions, which hence supports the theory that the origin of Titan main haze layer is located in the upper atmosphere.Link to publication