EDP Sciences
Free access
Issue A&A
Volume 473, Number 1, October I 2007
Page(s) L5 - L8
Section Letters
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20078277

A&A 473, L5-L8 (2007)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20078277


Evidence for methane escape and strong seasonal and dynamical perturbations of Neptune's atmospheric temperatures

G. S. Orton1, T. Encrenaz2, C. Leyrat3, R. Puetter4, and A. J. Friedson1

1  MS 169-237, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
2  LESIA, Observatoire de Paris, CNRS, UPMC, Univ. Paris 7, 5 place Jules Janssen, 91925 Meudon Cedex, France
    e-mail: Therese.Encrenaz@obspm.fr
3  MS 230-205, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
4  Center for Astrophysics & Space Sciences, CASS 0424, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gillman Dr., La Jolla, CA, 92093-0424, USA

(Received 13 July 2007 / Accepted 7 August 2007)

Aims.We studied the distribution of mid-infrared thermal emission from Neptune to determine the spatial variability of temperatures and the distribution of trace constituents, allowing us to determine the relative strengths of radiation and dynamics in its atmosphere.
Methods.Mid-infrared images of the planet were taken at the Very Large Telescope on 1-2 September 2006.
Results.These images reveal strong inhomogeneities in thermal emission. 17.6 and 18.7-$\mu$m images exhibit strong seasonally elevated south polar temperatures near Neptune's tropopause. These high temperatures allow tropospheric methane, elsewhere cold-trapped at depth, to escape into the stratosphere. Poleward of 70°S, 8.6- and 12.3-$\mu$m emission from stratospheric methane and ethane is enhanced, and a distinct, warm stratospheric feature near 65-70°S latitude is rotating with the neutral atmosphere. This feature may result from a localized wave propagating upward from the troposphere.

Key words: radiative transfer -- convection -- planets and satellites: individual: Neptune

© ESO 2007

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Editor-in-Chief: T. Forveille
Letters Editor-in-Chief: J. Alves
Managing Editor: N. Aghanim

ISSN: 0004-6361 ; e-ISSN: 1432-0746
Frequency: 12 volumes per year
Published by: EDP Sciences

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