Publications by Patrick Irwin

Haze and cloud structure of Saturn's North Pole and Hexagon Wave from Cassini/ISS imaging

Icarus (2018)

JF Sanz-Requena, S Pérez-Hoyos, A Sánchez-Lavega, A Antuñano, PGJ Irwin

© 2017 Elsevier Inc. In this paper we present a study of the vertical haze and cloud structure in the upper two bars of Saturn's Northern Polar atmosphere using the Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) instrument onboard the Cassini spacecraft. We focus on the characterization of latitudes from 53° to 90° N. The observations were taken during June 2013 with five different filters (VIO, BL1, MT2, CB2 and MT3) covering spectral range from the 420 nm to 890 nm (in a deep methane absorption band). Absolute reflectivity measurements of seven selected regions at all wavelengths and several illumination and observation geometries are compared with the values produced by a radiative transfer model. The changes in reflectivity at these latitudes are mostly attributed to changes in the tropospheric haze. This includes the haze base height (from 600 ± 200 mbar at the lowest latitudes to 1000 ± 300 mbar in the pole), its particle number density (from 20 ± 2 particles/cm 3 to 2 ± 0.5 particles/cm 3 at the haze base) and its scale height (from 18 ± 0.1 km to 50 ± 0.1 km). We also report variability in the retrieved particle size distribution and refractive indices. We find that the Hexagonal Wave dichotomizes the studied stratospheric and tropospheric hazes between the outer, equatorward regions and the inner, Polar Regions. This suggests that the wave or the jet isolates the particle distribution at least at tropospheric levels.

LRG-BEASTS III: ground-based transmission spectrum of the gas giant orbiting the cool dwarf WASP-80


J Kirk, PJ Wheatley, T Louden, I Skillen, GW King, J McCormac, PGJ Irwin

Spatial variations in Titan's atmospheric temperature: ALMA and Cassini comparisons from 2012 to 2015

Icarus (2018)

AE Thelen, CA Nixon, NJ Chanover, EM Molter, MA Cordiner, RK Achterberg, J Serigano, PGJ Irwin, N Teanby, SB Charnley

© 2017 Elsevier Inc. Submillimeter emission lines of carbon monoxide (CO) in Titan's atmosphere provide excellent probes of atmospheric temperature due to the molecule's long chemical lifetime and stable, well constrained volume mixing ratio. Here we present the analysis of 4 datasets obtained with the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 that contain strong CO rotational transitions. Utilizing ALMA's high spatial resolution in the 2012, 2014, and 2015 observations, we extract spectra from 3 separate regions on Titan's disk using datasets with beam sizes ranging from 0.35 × 0.28'' to 0.39 × 0.34''. Temperature profiles retrieved by the NEMESIS radiative transfer code are compared to Cassini Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) and radio occultation science results from similar latitude regions. Disk-averaged temperature profiles stay relatively constant from year to year, while small seasonal variations in atmospheric temperature are present from 2012 to 2015 in the stratosphere and mesosphere (~100-500 km) of spatially resolved regions. We measure the stratopause (320 km) to increase in temperature by 5 K in northern latitudes from 2012 to 2015, while temperatures rise throughout the stratosphere at lower latitudes. We observe generally cooler temperatures in the lower stratosphere (~100 km) than those obtained through Cassini radio occultation measurements, with the notable exception of warming in the northern latitudes and the absence of previous instabilities; both of these results are indicators that Titan's lower atmosphere responds to seasonal effects, particularly at higher latitudes. While retrieved temperature profiles cover a range of latitudes in these observations, deviations from CIRS nadir maps and radio occultation measurements convolved with the ALMA beam-footprint are not found to be statistically significant, and discrepancies are often found to be less than 5 K throughout the atmosphere. ALMA's excellent sensitivity in the lower stratosphere (60-300 km) provides a highly complementary dataset to contemporary CIRS and radio science observations, including altitude regions where both of those measurement sets contain large uncertainties. The demonstrated utility of CO emission lines in the submillimeter as a tracer of Titan's atmospheric temperature lays the groundwork for future studies of other molecular species - particularly those that exhibit strong polar abundance enhancements or are pressure-broadened in the lower atmosphere, as temperature profiles are found to consistently vary with latitude in all three years by up to 15 K.

Venus Upper Clouds and the UV Absorber From MESSENGER/MASCS Observations


S Perez-Hoyos, A Sanchez-Lavega, A Garcia-Munoz, PGJ Irwin, J Peralta, G Holsclaw, WM McClintock, JF Sanz-Requena

Jupiter's auroral-related stratospheric heating and chemistry II: Analysis of IRTF-TEXES spectra measured in December 2014

ICARUS 300 (2018) 305-326

JA Sinclair, GS Orton, TK Greathouse, LN Fletcher, JI Moses, V Hue, PGJ Irwin

Analysis of gaseous ammonia (NH3) absorption in the visible spectrum of Jupiter

Icarus Elsevier 302 (2017) 426-436

P Irwin, N Bowles, AS Braude, R Garland, S Calcutt

Observations of the visible/near-infrared reflectance spectrum of Jupiter have been made with the Very Large Telescope (VLT) Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument in the spectral range 0.48 – 0.93 μm in support of the NASA/Juno mission. These spectra contain spectral signatures of gaseous ammonia (NH3), whose abundance above the cloud tops can be determined if we have reliable information on its absorption spectrum. While there are a number of sources of NH3 absorption data in this spectral range, they cover small sub-ranges, which do not necessarily overlap and have been determined from a variety of sources. There is thus considerable uncertainty regarding the consistency of these different sources when modelling the reflectance of the entire visible/near-IR range. In this paper we analyse the VLT/MUSE observations of Jupiter to determine which sources of ammonia absorption data are most reliable. We find that the band model coefficients of Bowles et al. (2008) provide, in general, the best combination of reliability and wavelength coverage over the MUSE range. These band data appear consistent with ExoMOL ammonia line data of Yurchenko et al. (2011), at wavelengths where they overlap, but these latter data do not cover the ammonia absorption bands at 0.79 and 0.765 μm, which are prominent in our MUSE observations. However, we find the band data of Bowles et al. (2008) are not reliable at wavelengths less than 0.758 μm. At shorter wavelengths we find the laboratory observations of Lutz and Owen (1980) provide a good indication of the position and shape of the ammonia absorptions near 0.552 μm and 0.648 μm, but their absorption strengths appear inconsistent with the band data of Bowles et al. (2008) at longer wavelengths. Finally, we find that the line data of the 0.648 μm absorption band of Giver et al. (1975) are not suitable for modelling these data as they account for only 17% of the band absorption and cannot be extended reliably to the cold temperatures and H2/He-broadening conditions found in Jupiter’s atmosphere. This work is of significance not only for solar system planetary physics, but also for future proposed observations of Jupiter-like planets orbiting other stars, such as with NASA’s planned Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST).

Seasonal evolution of C2N2, C3H4, and C4H2 abundances in Titan's lower stratosphere


M Sylvestre, NA Teanby, S Vinatier, S Lebonnois, PGJ Irwin

The formation and evolution of Titan's winter polar vortex.

Nature communications 8 (2017) 1586-1586

NA Teanby, B Bézard, S Vinatier, M Sylvestre, CA Nixon, PGJ Irwin, RJ de Kok, SB Calcutt, FM Flasar

Saturn's largest moon Titan has a substantial nitrogen-methane atmosphere, with strong seasonal effects, including formation of winter polar vortices. Following Titan's 2009 northern spring equinox, peak solar heating moved to the northern hemisphere, initiating south-polar subsidence and winter polar vortex formation. Throughout 2010-2011, strengthening subsidence produced a mesospheric hot-spot and caused extreme enrichment of photochemically produced trace gases. However, in 2012 unexpected and rapid mesospheric cooling was observed. Here we show extreme trace gas enrichment within the polar vortex dramatically increases mesospheric long-wave radiative cooling efficiency, causing unusually cold temperatures 2-6 years post-equinox. The long time-frame to reach a stable vortex configuration results from the high infrared opacity of Titan's trace gases and the relatively long atmospheric radiative time constant. Winter polar hot-spots have been observed on other planets, but detection of post-equinox cooling is so far unique to Titan.

Jupiter's North Equatorial Belt expansion and thermal wave activity ahead of Juno's arrival

Geophysical Research Letters Wiley 44 (2017) 7140-7148

LN Fletcher, GS Orton, JA Sinclair, P Donnelly, H Melin, JH Rogers, TK Greathouse, Y Kasaba, T Fujiyoshi, TM Sato, J Fernandes, P Irwin, RS Giles, AA Simon, MH Wong, M Vedovato

<p>The dark colors of Jupiter's North Equatorial Belt (NEB, 7–17°N) appeared to expand northward into the neighboring zone in 2015, consistent with a 3–5 year cycle. Inversions of thermal-IR imaging from the Very Large Telescope revealed a moderate warming and reduction of aerosol opacity at the cloud tops at 17–20°N, suggesting subsidence and drying in the expanded sector. Two new thermal waves were identified during this period: (i) an upper tropospheric thermal wave (wave number 16–17, amplitude 2.5 K at 170 mbar) in the mid-NEB that was anticorrelated with haze reflectivity; and (ii) a stratospheric wave (wave number 13–14, amplitude 7.3 K at 5 mbar) at 20–30°N. Both were quasi-stationary, confined to regions of eastward zonal flow, and are morphologically similar to waves observed during previous expansion events.</p>

A precise optical transmission spectrum of the inflated exoplanet WASP-52b

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Oxford University Press 470 (2017) 742-754

T Louden, PJ Wheatley, P Irwin, J Kirk, I Skillen

We have measured a precise optical transmission spectrum forWASP-52b, a highly inflated hot Jupiter with an equilibrium temperature of 1300 K. Two transits of the planet were observed spectroscopically at low resolution with the auxiliary-port camera on the William Herschel Telescope, covering a wide range of 4000-8750 Å. We use a Gaussian process approach to model the correlated noise in the multiwavelength light curves, resulting in a high precision relative transmission spectrum with errors of the order of a pressure scaleheight.We attempted to fit a variety of different representative model atmospheres to the transmission spectrum, but did not find a satisfactory match to the entire spectral range. For the majority of the covered wavelength range (4000-7750 Å), the spectrum is flat, and can be explained by an optically thick and grey cloud layer at 0.1 mbar, but this is inconsistent with a slightly deeper transit at wavelengths &gt; 7750 Å.We were not able to find an obvious systematic source for this feature, so this opacity may be the result of an additional unknown absorber.

Ammonia in Jupiter's Troposphere From High-Resolution 5 mu m Spectroscopy


RS Giles, LN Fletcher, PGJ Irwin, GS Orton, JA Sinclair

D/H Ratios on Saturn and Jupiter from Cassini CIRS

Astronomical Journal IOP Publishing 154 (2017) 178-

JDR Pierel, CA Nixon, E Lellouch, LN Fletcher, GL Bjoraker, RK Achterberg, B Bezard, BE Hesman, P Irwin, FM Flasar

<p>We present new measurements of the deuterium abundance on Jupiter and Saturn, showing evidence that Saturn's atmosphere contains less deuterium than Jupiter's. We analyzed far-infrared spectra from the <em>Cassini</em> Composite Infrared Spectrometer to measure the abundance of HD on both giant planets. Our estimate of the Jovian D/H = (2.95 ± 0.55) <strong>×</strong> 10<sup>−5</sup> is in agreement with previous measurements by <em>ISO</em>/SWS: (2.25 ± 0.35) <strong>×</strong> 10<sup>−5</sup>, and the Galileo probe: (2.6 ± 0.7) <strong>×</strong> 10<sup>−5</sup>. In contrast, our estimate of the Saturn value of (2.10 ± 0.13) <strong>×</strong> 10<sup>−5</sup> is somewhat lower than on Jupiter (by a factor of <img align="MIDDLE" alt="${0.71}_{-0.15}^{+0.22}$" src=""/>), contrary to model predictions of a higher ratio: Saturn/Jupiter = 1.05–1.20. The Saturn D/H value is consistent with estimates for hydrogen in the protosolar nebula (2.1 ± 0.5) <strong>×</strong>10<sup>−5</sup>, but its apparent divergence from the Jovian value suggests that our understanding of planetary formation and evolution is incomplete, which is in agreement with previous work.</p>

Mapping Vinyl Cyanide and Other Nitriles in Titan's Atmosphere Using ALMA


JC-Y Lai, MA Cordiner, CA Nixon, RK Achterberg, EM Molter, NA Teanby, MY Palmer, SB Chamley, JE Lindberg, Z Kisiel, MJ Mumma, PGJ Irwin

Climatological variations in Titan's atmospheric chemistry mapped using ALMA


M Cordiner, C Nixon, S Charnley, N Teanby, Z Kisiel, P Irwin, M Palmer, J Lai, X Thelen, V Vuitton

The PanCam instrument for the ExoMars rover

Astrobiology Mary Ann Liebert 17 (2017) 511-541

AJ Coates, R Jaumann, AD Griffiths, CE Leff, N Schmitz, J-L Josset, G Paar, M Gunn, E Hauber, CR Cousins, RE Cross, P Grindrod, JC Bridges, M Balme, S Gupta, IA Crawford, P Irwin, R Stabbins, D Tirsch, JL Vago, T Theodorou, M Caballo-Perucha, GR Osinski

The scientific objectives of the ExoMars rover are designed to answer several key questions in the search for life on Mars. In particular, the unique subsurface drill will address some of these, such as the possible existence and stability of subsurface organics. PanCam will establish the surface geological and morphological context for the mission, working in collaboration with other context instruments. Here, we describe the PanCam scientific objectives in geology, atmospheric science, and 3-D vision. We discuss the design of PanCam, which includes a stereo pair of Wide Angle Cameras (WACs), each of which has an 11-position filter wheel and a High Resolution Camera (HRC) for high-resolution investigations of rock texture at a distance. The cameras and electronics are housed in an optical bench that provides the mechanical interface to the rover mast and a planetary protection barrier. The electronic interface is via the PanCam Interface Unit (PIU), and power conditioning is via a DC-DC converter. PanCam also includes a calibration target mounted on the rover deck for radiometric calibration, fiducial markers for geometric calibration, and a rover inspection mirror. Key Words: Mars-ExoMars-Instrumentation-Geology-Atmosphere-Exobiology-Context. Astrobiology 17, 511-541.

Disruption of Saturn's quasi-periodic equatorial oscillation by the great northern storm

NATURE ASTRONOMY 1 (2017) 765-770

LN Fletcher, S Guerlet, GS Orton, RG Cosentino, T Fouchet, PGJ Irwin, L Li, FM Flasar, N Gorius, R Morales-Juberias

Moist convection and the 2010–2011 revival of Jupiter's South Equatorial Belt

Icarus Elsevier 286 (2017) 94-117

LN Fletcher, GS Orton, JH Rogers, RS Giles, AV Payne, P Irwin, M Vedovato

The transformation of Jupiter's South Equatorial Belt (SEB) from its faded, whitened state in 2009-2010 (Fletcher et al., 2011b) to its normal brown appearance is documented via comparisons of thermal-infrared (5–20  µm) and visible-light imaging between November 2010 and November 2011. The SEB revival consisted of convective eruptions triggered over ∼100 days, potentially powered by the latent heat released by the condensation of water. The plumes rise from the water cloud base and ultimately diverge and cool in the stably-stratified upper troposphere. Thermal-IR images from the Very Large Telescope (VLT) were acquired 2 days after the SEB disturbance was first detected as a small white spot by amateur observers on November 9th 2010. Subsequent images over several months revealed the cold, putatively anticyclonic and cloudy plume tops (area 2.5 × 106 km2) surrounded by warm, cloud-free conditions at their peripheries due to subsidence. The latent heating was not directly detectable in the 5-20 µm range. The majority of the plumes erupted from a single source near 140−160∘W, coincident with the remnant cyclonic circulation of a brown barge that had formed during the fade. The warm remnant of the cyclone could still be observed in IRTF imaging 5 days before the November 9th eruption. Additional plumes erupted from the leading edge of the central disturbance immediately east of the source, which propagated slowly eastwards to encounter the Great Red Spot. The tropospheric plumes were sufficiently vigorous to excite stratospheric thermal waves over the SEB with a 20−30∘ longitudinal wavelength and 5-6 K temperature contrasts at 5 mbar, showing a direct connection between moist convection and stratospheric wave activity. The subsidence and compressional heating of dry, unsaturated air warmed the troposphere (particularly to the northwest of the central branch of the revival) and removed the aerosols that had been responsible for the fade. Dark, cloud-free lanes west of the plumes were the first to show the colour change, and elongated due to the zonal windshear to form the characteristic ‘S-shape’ of the revival complex. The aerosol-free air was redistributed and mixed throughout the SEB by the zonal flow, following a westward-moving southern branch and an eastward-moving northern branch that revived the brown colouration over ∼200 days. The transition from the cool conditions of the SEBZ during the fade to the revived SEB caused a 2–4 K rise in 500-mbar temperatures (leaving a particularly warm southern SEB) and a reduction of aerosol opacity by factors of 2–3. Newly-cleared gaps in the upper tropospheric aerosol layer appeared different in filters sensing the ∼700-mbar cloud deck and the 2–3 bar cloud deck, suggesting complex vertical structure in the downdrafts. The last stage of the revival was the re-establishment of normal convective activity northwest of the GRS in September 2011, ∼840 days after the last occurrence in June 2009. Moist convection may therefore play an important role in controlling the timescale and atmospheric variability during the SEB life cycle.

Independent evolution of stratospheric temperatures in Jupiter's northern and southern auroral regions from 2014 to 2016

Geophysical Research Letters American Geophysical Union 44 (2017) 5345-5354

JA Sinclair, GS Orton, TK Greathouse, LN Fletcher, C Tao, GR Gladstone, A Adriani, W Dunn, JI Moses, V Hue, P Irwin, H Melin, RS Giles

We present retrievals of the vertical temperature profile of Jupiter's high latitudes from Infrared Telescope Facility-Texas Echelon Cross Echelle Spectrograph measurements acquired on 10–11 December 2014 and 30 April to 1 May 2016. Over this time range, 1 mbar temperature in Jupiter's northern and southern auroral regions exhibited independent evolution. The northern auroral hot spot exhibited negligible net change in temperature at 1 mbar and its longitudinal position remained fixed at 180°W (System III), whereas the southern auroral hot spot exhibited a net increase in temperature of 11.1 ± 5.2 K at 0.98 mbar and its longitudinal orientation moved west by approximately 30°. This southern auroral stratospheric temperature increase might be related to (1) near-contemporaneous brightening of the southern auroral ultraviolet/near-infrared H + 3 emission measured by the Juno spacecraft and (2) an increase in the solar dynamical pressure in the preceding 3 days. We therefore suggest that 1 mbar temperature in the southern auroral region might be modified by higher-energy charged particle precipitation.

ALMA detection and astrobiological potential of vinyl cyanide on Titan

Science Advances American Association for the Advancement of Science 3 (2017) e1700022

MY Palmer, MA Cordiner, CA Nixon, SB Charnley, NA Teanby, Z Kisiel, P Irwin, MJ Mumma

Recent simulations have indicated that vinyl cyanide is the best candidate molecule for the formation of cell membranes/vesicle structures in Titan's hydrocarbon-rich lakes and seas. Although the existence of vinyl cyanide (C2H3CN) on Titan was previously inferred using Cassini mass spectrometry, a definitive detection has been lacking until now. We report the first spectroscopic detection of vinyl cyanide in Titan's atmosphere, obtained using archival data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), collected from February to May 2014. We detect the three strongest rotational lines of C2H3CN in the frequency range of 230 to 232 GHz, each with &gt;4σ confidence. Radiative transfer modeling suggests that most of the C2H3CN emission originates at altitudes of ≳200 km, in agreement with recent photochemical models. The vertical column densities implied by our best-fitting models lie in the range of 3.7 × 1013 to 1.4 × 1014 cm-2. The corresponding production rate of vinyl cyanide and its saturation mole fraction imply the availability of sufficient dissolved material to form ~107 cell membranes/cm3 in Titan's sea Ligeia Mare.

Rayleigh scattering in the transmission spectrum of HAT-P-18b

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Oxford University Press 468 (2017) 3907-3916

J Kirk, PJ Wheatley, T Louden, AP Doyle, I Skillen, J McCormac, P Irwin, R Karjalainen

We have performed ground-based transmission spectroscopy of the hot Jupiter HAT-P-18b using the ACAM instrument on the William Herschel Telescope (WHT). Differential spectroscopy over an entire night was carried out at a resolution of R ≈ 400 using a nearby comparison star. We detect a blueward slope extending across our optical transmission spectrum that runs from 4750 to 9250 Å. The slope is consistent with Rayleigh scattering at the equilibrium temperature of the planet (852 K). We do not detect enhanced sodium absorption, which indicates that a high-altitude haze is masking the feature and giving rise to the Rayleigh slope. This is only the second discovery of a Rayleigh-scattering slope in a hot Jupiter atmosphere from the ground, and our study illustrates how ground-based observations can provide transmission spectra with precision comparable to the Hubble Space Telescope.