Elusive ethylene detected in Saturn's northern storm region

B. E. Hesman, G. L. Bjoraker, P. V. Sada, R. K. Achterberg, D. E. Jennings, P. N. Romani, A. W. Lunsford, L. N. Fletcher, R. J. Boyle, A. A. Simon-Miller, C. A. Nixon, P. G J Irwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


The massive eruption at 40°N (planetographic latitude) on Saturn in 2010 December has produced significant and lasting effects in the northern hemisphere on temperature and species abundances. The northern storm region was observed on many occasions in 2011 by Cassini's Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS). In 2011 May, temperatures in the stratosphere greater than 200K were derived from CIRS spectra in the regions referred to as "beacons" (warm regions in the stratosphere). Ethylene has been detected in the beacon region in Saturn's northern storm region using CIRS. Ground-based observations using the high-resolution spectrometer Celeste on the McMath-Pierce Telescope on 2011 May 15 were used to confirm the detection and improve the altitude resolution in the retrieved profile. The derived ethylene profile from the CIRS data gives a C 2H 4 mole fraction of 5.9 ± 4.5 × 10 -7 at 0.5 mbar, and from Celeste data it gives 2.7 ± 0.45 × 10 -6 at 0.1 mbar. This is two orders of magnitude higher than the amount measured in the ultraviolet at other latitudes prior to the storm. It is also much higher than predicted by photochemical models, indicating that perhaps another production mechanism is required or a loss mechanism is being inhibited.

Original languageEnglish
Article number24
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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