Ionization processes in the atmosphere of Titan
II. Electron precipitation along magnetic field lines
Laboratoire de Planétologie de Grenoble, Université Joseph Fourier - CNRS, France e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 LATMOS/IPSL/UVSQ,10-12 avenue de l'Europe, 78140 Vélizy, France
Accepted: 13 July 2009
Context. The Cassini probe regularly passes the vicinity of Titan, providing new insights into particle precipitation by use of its electron and ion spectrometers. A discrepancy between precipitation models and observations of electron fluxes has been found. This discrepancy was suspected to be caused by the geometry of the magnetic field.
Aims. In this article, we compute the electron impact ionization in the nightside ionosphere of Titan, assuming non-trivial geometry for the magnetic field lines.
Methods. We use the TransTitan model, modified to take into account the magnetic field line geometry in the nightside, and we compare these results with the electron flux measurements during the T5 fly-by of Cassini. We use several magnetic field line geometries, including one produced by hybrid simulations.
Results. The geometry of the lines implies a longer path of the electron inside the atmosphere of Titan. The electron fluxes are therefore modified considerably compared to the vertical precipitation hypothesis. At an altitude of 1200 km, the electron flux can be divided up to ten times with a field line resulting from hybrid simulation. Thanks to the use of more accurate field lines, the model reproduces the experiment well without any further adjustment of the precipitated measured electron flux.
Conclusions. Several hypothesis had been suggested to explain the discrepancies between the different models and the observation of the electron flux during the T5 fly-by of Cassini. Our approach shows that the most probable explanation is the magnetic field line geometry. This work shows that the computation of ion production by electron impact in the atmosphere of Titan needs the consideration of both magnetic field and the input electron fluxes. Based on these considerations, our model can compute the conditions for future fly-by, and could be used to compare models with experiments.
Key words: planets and satellites: individual: Titan / atmospheric effects / space vehicles: instruments
© ESO, 2009