Titan's upper ionosphere

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As a result of electron impact ionization and photoionization, an ionosphere should be built up at the high-altitude region of Titan's atmosphere. From a simple consideration of the Chapman layer theory, the peak electron density can be determined to be ≈5 × 103 cm-3 at about 1200 km altitude. The complex ionmolecule reactions in the N2-CH4 atmosphere would lead to a mixture of N2+, CH3+, C2H5+, and H2CN+ ions as the major ion species in the upper ionosphere. The new calculations presented here also predict the presence of significant amounts of CH5+, N2H+, C2H2+, and C2H3+ ions (i.e., ni, ≈ 10-100 cm-3) near the ionospheric peak. Because of fast ion-neutral reactions with CH4 and N2, the number density of the Ar+ ions would not exceed a value of more than 10 cm-3 in the upper ionosphere if argon has a mixing ratio about 10-2 near the homopause. Interaction with the partially corotating magnetospheric plasma could lead to a significant modification of the ionospheric profile in the high altitudes. The ionospheric flow dynamics are studied in the limits of one-fluid mass-loaded flow and of diffusion-convection approximation. Both approaches show that ion-neutral friction acts as a cushion against plasma streaming effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)354-363
Number of pages10
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 10 Oct 1990


  • Molecular processes
  • Planets: abundances
  • Planets: magnetospheres
  • Planets: satellites
  • Planets: Saturn


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