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Titan's Carbon Budget and the Case of the Missing Ethane Eric H. Wilson*,,

Summary: Titan's Carbon Budget and the Case of the Missing Ethane
Eric H. Wilson*,,§
and Sushil K. Atreya§
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 4800 Oak GroVe DriVe M/S 169-237, Pasadena, California 91109-8099,
Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences, UniVersity of Michigan,
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-2143
ReceiVed: June 12, 2009; ReVised Manuscript ReceiVed: August 26, 2009
The retrieval of data from the Cassini-Huygens mission has revealed much about Titan's atmospheric-
surface system and has precipitated more questions. One of these questions involves the lack of large
reservoirs of ethane that were predicted by a variety of studies prior to the arrival of the Cassini-Huygens
spacecraft. Using an updated and comprehensive photochemical model, we examine the nature of Titan's
carbon budget, initiated by the destruction of methane, and the role that ethane condensation plays in
this budget. Model results show that 40% of methane destruction results in ethane formation, with a net
production rate of 2.7 × 109
molecules cm-2
, due primarily to acetylenic catalysis in Titan's
stratosphere. This corresponds to a liquid ethane layer of several hundred meters over geologic time.
However, episodic methane outgassing, subsurface sequestration, and chemical processing of Titan's
surface are likely responsible for the limiting of ethane condensate on Titan's surface to less than 10 m


Source: Atreya, Sushil - Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Science, University of Michigan


Collections: Physics