Titan in transit: Ultraviolet stellar occultation observations reveal a complex atmospheric structure

Patrick D. Tribbett, Tyler D. Robinson, Tommi T. Koskinen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Transit spectroscopy is a key tool for exoplanet atmospheric characterization. However, transit spectrum observations can be limited by aerosol extinction when gas opacities are weak. The ultraviolet wavelength range contains a variety of strong molecular and atomic features, potentially enabling gas species detection even when atmospheric hazes are present. To understand the interplay between aerosol extinction and ultraviolet molecular opacities, we investigate transmission through the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan during an occultation observed with the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer (UVIS) on board NASA's Cassini orbiter. We analyze the derived ultraviolet transit spectrum of Titan using exoplanet-relevant atmospheric retrieval models that both include and exclude treatments for hazes. Our retrieved gas column densities are consistent with previous studies analyzing UVIS occultation data. Despite the apparent haze impact on the underlying occultation data, our treatments fail to correctly characterize the haze in fits derived from simulated transit observations. This suggests that oversimplified haze parameterizations can hinder detection of atmospheric hazes in transit. Our work indicates that continued characterization of exoplanets in the ultraviolet wavelength regime can provide novel atmospheric constraints even if transit spectra are dominated by haze extinction at longer wavelengths.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109
JournalPlanetary Science Journal
Volume2
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Geophysics

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