Chemistry of the galactic cosmic ray induced ionosphere of Titan


  • G. J. Molina-Cuberos,

  • J. J. López-Moreno,

  • R. Rodrigo,

  • L. M. Lara


Titan's lower ionosphere (from 1 to 400 km) has been studied with a one-dimensional ion-neutral model. In this region of the atmosphere, galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) are the main ionization source. They penetrate to the deeper atmosphere and ionize the neutral constituents of Titan's atmosphere (mainly N2, CH4, Ar, H2, and CO) to produce N2+, N+, Ar+, CH4+, CH3+, CH2+, H2+, H+, and CO+. Fast reactions with the neutrals convert these ions into ions such as CH5+, C2H5+, and N2H+. Different pathways are proposed to obtain the ion and electron densities. The most abundant ions are cluster ions, like CH5+·CH4, HCO+·H2, and HCNH+·C2H4, and long chain hydrocarbon ions. In atmospheres very rich in N2, such as Titan's, ions like H4C7N+ and CH3CNH+ also represent an important contribution to the total positive ion density. Three-body reactions may play an important role in the dense atmosphere of Titan, and special attention is devoted to them. The calculated electron density in the lower atmosphere reaches a peak of ≈ 2150 cm−3 at an altitude of 90 km.