New laboratory measurements of CH4 in Titan's conditions and a reanalysis of the DISR near-surface spectra at the Huygens landing site

D. Jacquemart, E. Lellouch, B. Bézard, C. de Bergh, A. Coustenis, N. Lacome, B. Schmitt, M. Tomasko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Laboratory spectra of methane-nitrogen mixtures have been recorded in the near-infrared range (1.0-1.65 μm) in conditions similar to Titan's near surface, to facilitate the interpretation of the DISR/DLIS (DISR-Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer) spectra taken during the last phase of the descent of the Huygens Probe, when the surface was illuminated by a surface-science lamp. We used a 0.03 cm-1 spectral resolution, adequate to resolve the lines at high pressure (pN2∼1.5 bar). By comparing the laboratory spectra with synthetic calculations in the well-studied ν2+2ν3 band (7515-7620 cm-1), we determine a methane absorption column density of 178±20 cm atm and a temperature of 118±10 K in our experiment. From this, we derive the methane absorption coefficients over 1.0-1.65 μm with a 0.03 cm-1 sampling, allowing for the extrapolation of the results to any other methane column density under the relevant pressure and temperature conditions. We then revisit the calibration and analysis of the Titan "lamp-on" DLIS spectra. We infer a 5.1±0.8% methane-mixing ratio in the first 25 m of Titan's atmosphere. The CH4 mixing ratio measured 90 s after landing from a distance of 45 cm is found to be 0.92±0.25 times this value, thus showing no post-landing outgassing of methane in excess of ∼20%. Finally, we determine the surface reflectivity as seen between 25 m and 45 cm and find that the 1500 nm absorption band is deeper in the post-landing spectrum as compared to pre-landing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)613-623
Number of pages11
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • DISR near-surface spectra
  • Huygens
  • Methane
  • Titan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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