The Evolution of Hydrocarbon Compounds in Saturn's Stratosphere During the 2010 Northern Storm

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

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The massive eruption at 40N (planetographic latitude) in December 2010 has produced significant and long-lived changes in temperature and species abundances in Saturn's northern hemisphere (Hesman et al. 2012a, Fletcher et al. 2012). The northern storm region has been observed on many occasions between January 2011 and June of 2012 by Cassini's Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS). In this time period, temperatures in regions referred to as 'beacons' (warm regions in the stratosphere at certain longitudes in the storm latitude) became significantly warmer than pre-storm values of 140K. In this period hydrocarbon emission greatly increased; however, this increased emission could not be attributed due to the temperature changes alone for many of these species (Hesman et al. 2012b, Bjoraker et al 2012). The unique nature of the stratospheric beacons also resulted in the detection of ethylene (C2H4) using CIRS. These beacon regions have also led to the identification of rare hydrocarbon species such as C4H2 and C3H4 in the stratosphere. These species are all expected from photochemical processes in the stratosphere, however high temperatures, unusual chemistry, or dynamics are enhancing these species. The exact cause of these enhancements is still under investigation. Ground-based observations were performed using the high-resolution spectrometer Celeste in May 2011 to confirm the CIRS detection of C2H4 and to study its spectral signatures at higher spectral resolution. In order to follow the evolution of its emission further observations were performed in July 2011 and March 2012. These observations are being used in conjunction with the CIRS observations to investigate the source of the approximately 100-fold increase of ethylene in the stratospheric beacon. The time evolution of hydrocarbon emission from C2H2, C2H4, C2H6, C3H4, and C4H2 in Saturn's Northern Storm beacon regions will be discussed. References: Bjoraker, G., B.E. Hesman, R.K. Achterberg, P.N. Romani. 2012, 'The Evolution of Hydrocarbons in Saturn's Northern Storm Region,' AAS DPS Conference, Vol. 44, #403.05. Fletcher, L.N. et al. 2012, 'The Origin and Evolution of Saturn's 2011-2012 Stratospheric Vortex,' Icarus, 221, 560-586. Hesman, B.E. et al. 2012a, 'Elusive Ethylene Detected in Saturn's Northern Storm Region,' The Astrophysical Journal, 760, 24-30. Hesman, B.E. et al. 2012b, 'Ethylene Emission in the Aftermath of Saturn's 2010 Northern Storm,' AAS DPS Conference, Vol. 44, #403.06.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


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