Publications by Patrick Irwin


Constraints on Titan's middle atmosphere ammonia abundance from Herschel/SPIRE sub-millimetre spectra

Planetary and Space Science (2012)

NA Teanby, PGJ Irwin, CA Nixon, R Courtin, BM Swinyard, R Moreno, E Lellouch, M Rengel, P Hartogh


Optimal estimation retrievals of the atmospheric structure and composition of HD189733b from secondary eclipse spectroscopy

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 420 (2012) 170-182

JM Lee, LN Fletcher, PGJ Irwin

Recent spectroscopic observations of transiting hot Jupiters have permitted the derivation of the thermal structure and molecular abundances of H 2O, CO 2, CO and CH 4 in these extreme atmospheres. Here, for the first time, we apply the technique of optimal estimation to determine the thermal structure and composition of an exoplanet by solving the inverse problem. The development of a suite of radiative transfer and retrieval tools for exoplanet atmospheres is described, building upon a retrieval algorithm which is extensively used in the study of our own Solar system. First, we discuss the plausibility of detection of different molecules in the dayside atmosphere of HD189733b and the best-fitting spectrum retrieved from all publicly available sets of secondary eclipse observations between 1.45 and 24μm. Additionally, we use contribution functions to assess the vertical sensitivity of the emission spectrum to temperatures and molecular composition. Over the altitudes probed by the contribution functions, the retrieved thermal structure shows an isothermal upper atmosphere overlying a deeper adiabatic layer (temperature decreasing with altitude), which is consistent with previously reported dynamical and observational results. The formal uncertainties on retrieved parameters are estimated conservatively using an analysis of the cross-correlation functions and the degeneracy between different atmospheric properties. The formal solution of the inverse problem suggests that the uncertainties on retrieved parameters are larger than suggested in previous studies, and that the presence of CO and CH 4 is only marginally supported by the available data. Nevertheless, by including as broad a wavelength range as possible in the retrieval, we demonstrate that available spectra of HD189733b can constrain a family of potential solutions for the atmospheric structure. © 2011 The Authors Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society © 2011 RAS.


Investigation of new band parameters with temperature dependence for self-broadened methane gas in the range 9000 to 14,000cm <sup>-1</sup> (0.71 to 1.1μm)

Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer 113 (2012) 763-782

N Bowles, R Passmore, K Smith, G Williams, S Calcutt, PGJ Irwin

This paper describes new measurements and modelling of the absorption of methane gas, one of the most important gases observed in the atmospheres of the outer planets and Titan, between 9000 and 14,000cm -1 (0.7 to 1.1μm) and compares them with current best available spectral models.A series of methane spectra were measured at the UK's Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Molecular Spectroscopy Facility (based at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxfordshire, UK) using a Brüker 125HR Fourier transform spectrometer. To approximate the conditions found in outer planet atmospheres, the spectra were measured over a wide range of pressures (5bar to 38mbar) and temperatures (290-100K) with path lengths of 19.3, 17.6, 16.0 and 14.4m. The spectra were recorded at a moderate resolution of 0.12cm -1 and then averaged to 10cm -1 resolution prior to fitting a series of increasingly complex band-models including temperature dependence. Using the most complex model, a Goody line distribution with a Voigt line shape and two lower energy state levels, the typical rms residual error in the fit is between 0.01 and 0.02 in the wings of the main absorption bands.The new spectral parameters were then compared with the measured spectra and spectra calculated using existing data and shown to be able to accurately reproduce the measured absorption. The improvement in the temperature dependence included in the model is demonstrated by comparison with existing cold methane spectral data for a typical Jovian path. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.


Observations of upper tropospheric acetylene on Saturn: No apparent correlation with 2000 km-sized thunderstorms

Planetary and Space Science (2012)

J Hurley, PGJ Irwin, LN Fletcher, JI Moses, B Hesman, J Sinclair, C Merlet


The application of new methane line absorption data to Gemini-N/NIFS and KPNO/FTS observations of Uranus' near-infrared spectrum

Icarus 220 (2012) 369-382

PGJ Irwin, C de Bergh, R Courtin, B Bézard, NA Teanby, GR Davis, LN Fletcher, GS Orton, SB Calcutt, D Tice, J Hurley

New line data describing the absorption of CH 4 and CH 3D from 1.26 to 1.71μm (Campargue, A., Wang, L., Mondelain, D., Kassi, S., Bézard, B., Lellouch, E., Coustenis, A., de Bergh, C., Hirtzig, M., Drossart, P. [2012]. Icarus 219, 110-128), building upon previous papers by Campargue et al. (Campargue, A., Wang, L., Kassi, S., Masat, M., Votava, O. [2010]. J. Quant. Spectrosc. Radiat. Transfer 111, 1141-1151; Wang, L., Kassi, S., Campargue, A. [2010]. J. Quant. Spectrosc. Radiat. Transfer 111, 1130-1140; Wang, L., Kassi, S., Liu, A.W., Hu, S.M., Campargue, A. [2011]. J. Quant. Spectrosc. Radiat. Transfer 112, 937-951)) have been applied to the analysis of Gemini-N/NIFS observations of Uranus made in 2010 and compared with earlier disc-averaged observations made by KPNO/FTS in 1982. The new line data are found to improve greatly the fit to the observed spectra and present a huge advance over previous methane absorption tables by allowing us to determine the CH 3D/CH 4 ratio and also start to break the degeneracy between methane abundance and cloud top height. The best fits are obtained if the cloud particles in the main cloud deck at the 2-3bar level become less scattering with wavelength across the 1.4-1.6μm region and we have modelled this variation here by varying the extinction cross-section and single-scattering albedo of the particles.Applying the new line data to the NIFS spectra of Uranus, we determine a new estimate of the CH 3D/CH 4 ratio of 2.9-0.5+0.9×10-4, which is consistent with the estimate of de Bergh et al. (de Bergh, C., Lutz, B.L., Owen, T., Brault, J., Chauville, J. [1986]. Astrophys. J. 311, 501-510) of 3.6-2.8+3.6×10-4, made by fitting a disc-averaged KPNO/FTS spectrum measured in 1982, but much better constrained. The NIFS observations made in 2010 have been disc-averaged and compared with the 1982 KPNO/FTS spectrum and found to be in excellent agreement.Using k-tables fitted to the new line data, the central meridian observations of Uranus' H-band spectrum (1.49-1.64μm) made by Gemini-N/NIFS in 2010 have been reanalyzed. The use of the new methane absorption coefficients and the modified scattering properties of the cloud particles in the main cloud deck appears to break the degeneracy between cloud height and methane abundance immediately above it in this spectral region and we find that both vary with latitude across Uranus' disc. Overall, we find that the main cloud deck becomes higher, but thinner from equator to poles, with a local maximum in cloud top height in the circumpolar zones at 45°N and 45°S. At the same time, using the 'D' temperature pressure profile of Lindal et al. (Lindal, G.F., Lyons, J.R., Sweetnam, D.N., Eshleman, V.R., Hinson, D.P. [1987]. J. Geophys. Res. 92, 14987-15001) and a deep methane abundance of 1.6% (Baines, K.H., Mickelson, M.E., Larson, L.E., Ferguson, D.W. [1995]. Icarus 144, 328-340) we find that the relative humidity of methane is high near the equator (~60%) and decreases sharply towards the poles, except near the circumpolar zone at 45°N, which has brightened steadily since 2007, and where there is a local maximum in methane relative humidity. In tests conducted with the warmer 'F1' profile of Sromovsky et al. (2011) we find a similar variation of methane abundance above the main cloud, although for this warmer temperature profile this abundance is dependent mostly on the fitted deep methane mole fraction. © 2012 Elsevier Inc.


Latitudinal variation of upper tropospheric NH 3 on Saturn derived from Cassini/CIRS far-infrared measurements

Planetary and Space Science (2012)

J Hurley, LN Fletcher, PGJ Irwin, SB Calcutt, JA Sinclair, C Merlet


Isotopic ratios in titan's methane: Measurements and modeling

Astrophysical Journal 749 (2012)

CA Nixon, B Temelso, S Vinatier, NA Teanby, B Bézard, RK Achterberg, KE Mandt, CD Sherrill, PGJ Irwin, DE Jennings, PN Romani, A Coustenis, FM Flasar

The existence of methane in Titan's atmosphere (∼6% level at the surface) presents a unique enigma, as photochemical models predict that the current inventory will be entirely depleted by photochemistry in a timescale of ∼20Myr. In this paper, we examine the clues available from isotopic ratios (12C/13C and D/H) in Titan's methane as to the past atmosphere history of this species. We first analyze recent infrared spectra of CH4 collected by the Cassini Composite Infrared Spectrometer, measuring simultaneously for the first time the abundances of all three detected minor isotopologues: 13CH4, 12CH3D, and 13CH3D. From these we compute estimates of 12C/13C= 86.5 ± 8.2 and D/H= (1.59 ± 0.33) × 10-4, in agreement with recent results from the Huygens GCMS and Cassini INMS instruments. We also use the transition state theory to estimate the fractionation that occurs in carbon and hydrogen during a critical reaction that plays a key role in the chemical depletion of Titan's methane: CH4+ C2H→ CH3+ C2H2. Using these new measurements and predictions we proceed to model the time evolution of 12C/13C and D/H in Titan's methane under several prototypical replenishment scenarios. In our Model1 (no resupply of CH4), we find that the present-day 12C/13C implies that the CH4 entered the atmosphere 60-1600Myr ago if methane is depleted by chemistry and photolysis alone, but much more recently - most likely less than 10Myr ago - if hydrodynamic escape is also occurring. On the other hand, if methane has been continuously supplied at the replenishment rate then the isotopic ratios provide no constraints, and likewise for the case where atmospheric methane is increasing. We conclude by discussing how these findings may be combined with other evidence to constrain the overall history of the atmospheric methane. © 2012 The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.


Models of the global cloud structure on Venus derived from Venus Express observations

Icarus 217 (2012) 542-560

JK Barstow, CCC Tsang, CF Wilson, PGJ Irwin, FW Taylor, K McGouldrick, P Drossart, G Piccioni, S Tellmann

Spatially-resolved near-infrared spectra from the Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) on Venus Express have been used to derive improved models of the vertical structure and global distribution of cloud properties in the southern hemisphere of Venus. VIRTIS achieved the first systematic, global mapping of Venus at wavelengths within transparency windows in the 1.6-2.6. μm range, which are sensitive on the nightside to absorption by the lower and middle cloud layers of thermally-emitted radiation from the hot lower atmosphere (Taylor, F.W., Crisp, D., Bézard, B. [1997]. Venus II: Geology, Geophysics, Atmosphere, and Solar Wind Environment, pp. 325-351). The cloud model used to interpret the spectra is based on previous work by Pollack et al. (Pollack, J., Dalton, J., Grinspoon, D., Wattson, R., Freedman, R., Crisp, D., Allen, D., Bézard, B., de Bergh, C., Giver, L. [1993]. Icarus 103, 1-42), Grinspoon et al. (Grinspoon, D.H., Pollack, J.B., Sitton, B.R., Carlson, R.W., Kamp, L.W., Baines, K.H., Encrenaz, T., Taylor, F.W. [1993]. Planet. Space Sci. 41, 515-542) and Crisp (Crisp, D. [1986]. Icarus 67, 484-514), and assumes a composition for the cloud particles of sulfuric acid and water, with acid concentration as a free parameter to be determined. Other retrieved parameters are the average size of the particles and the altitude of the cloud base in the model. Latitudinal variation in the atmospheric temperature structure was incorporated using data from the Venus Radio Science experiment (VeRa). Values are estimated initially using wavelength pairs selected for their unique sensitivity to each parameter, and then validated by comparing measured to calculated spectra over the entire wavelength range, the latter generated using the NEMESIS radiative transfer and retrieval code (Irwin, P.G.J., Teanby, N.A., de Kok, R., Fletcher, L.N., Howett, C.J.A., Tsang, C.C.C., Wilson, C.F., Calcutt, S.B., Nixon, C.A., Parrish, P.D. [2008]. J. Quant. Spectrosc. Radiat. Trans. 109, 1136-1150). The sulfuric acid concentration in the cloud particles is found to be higher in regions of optically thick cloud. The cloud base altitude shows a dependence on latitude, reaching a maximum height near -50°. The increased average particle size near the pole found by Wilson et al. (Wilson, C.F., Guerlet, S., Irwin, P.G.J., Tsang, C.C.C., Taylor, F.W., Carlson, R.W., Drossart, P., Piccioni, G. [2008]. J. Geophys. Res. (Planets) 113, E12) and the finding of spatially variable water vapor abundance at35-40. km altitude first reported by Tsang et al. (Tsang, C.C.C., Wilson, C.F., Barstow, J.K., Irwin, P.G.J., Taylor, F.W., McGouldrick, K., Piccioni, G., Drossart, P., Svedhem, H. [2010]. Geophys. Res. Lett. 37, L02202) are both confirmed. The implications of these improved descriptions of cloud structure and variability for the chemistry, meteorology, and radiative energy balance on Venus are briefly discussed. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.


Further seasonal changes in Uranus' cloud structure observed by Gemini-North and UKIRT

Icarus 218 (2012) 47-55

PGJ Irwin, NA Teanby, GR Davis, LN Fletcher, GS Orton, SB Calcutt, DS Tice, J Hurley

Near-infrared observations of Uranus were made in October/November 2010 with the Gemini-North telescope in Hawaii, using NIFS, an integral field spectrograph, and the NIRI instrument in imaging mode. Observations were acquired using adaptive optics and have a spatial resolution of approximately 0.1-0.2'.The observed spectra along Uranus' central meridian were analysed using a multiple-scattering retrieval algorithm to infer the vertical/latitudinal variation in cloud optical depth, which we compare with previous observations made by Gemini-North/NIFS in 2009 and UKIRT/UIST observations made between 2006 and 2008. Assuming a continuous distribution of small particles (r~ 1μm, and refractive index of 1.4. +. 0. i) with the single scattering albedo set to 0.75 and using a Henyey-Greenstein phase function with asymmetry parameter set to 0.7 at all wavelengths and latitudes, the retrieved cloud density profiles show that the north polar zone at 45°N has continued to steadily brighten while the south polar zone at 45°S has continued to fade. As with our previous analyses we find that, assuming that the methane vertical profile is the same at all latitudes, the clouds forming these polar zones at 45°N and 45°S lie at slightly lower pressures than the clouds at more equatorial latitudes. However, we also find that the Gemini data can be reproduced by assuming that the main cloud remains fixed at ~2. bar at all latitudes and adjusting the relative humidity of methane instead. In this case we find that the deep cloud is still more opaque at the equator and at the zones at 45°N and 45°S and shows the same seasonal trends as when the methane humidity remain fixed. However, with this approach the relative humidity of methane is seen to rise sharply from approximately 20% at polar latitudes to values closer to 80% for latitudes equatorward of 45°S and 45°N, consistent with the analysis of 2002 HST observations by Karkoschka and Tomasko (Karkoschka, E., Tomasko, M. [2009]. Icarus 202, 287-302), with a possible indication of seasonal variability. Overall, Uranus appeared to be less convectively active in 2010 than in the previous 4. years, supporting the conclusion that now the northern spring equinox (which occurred in 2007) has passed, the atmosphere is settling back into the more quiescent state seen by Voyager 2 in 1986. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.


Investigation of new band parameters with temperature dependence for self-broadened methane gas in the range 9000 to 14,000 cm -1 (0.71 to 1.1 μm)

Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer (2012)

N Bowles, R Passmore, K Smith, G Williams, S Calcutt, PGJ Irwin


EChO - Exoplanet characterisation observatory

Experimental Astronomy (2012) 1-43

G Tinetti, JP Beaulieu, T Henning, M Meyer, G Micela, I Ribas, D Stam, M Swain, O Krause, M Ollivier, E Pace, B Swinyard, A Aylward, R van Boekel, A Coradini, T Encrenaz, I Snellen, MR Zapatero-Osorio, J Bouwman, JY-K Cho, V Coudé de Foresto, T Guillot, M Lopez-Morales, I Mueller-Wodarg, E Palle, F Selsis, A Sozzetti, PAR Ade, N Achilleos, A Adriani, CB Agnor, C Afonso, CA Prieto, G Bakos, RJ Barber, M Barlow, V Batista, P Bernath, B Bézard, P Bordé, LR Brown, A Cassan, C Cavarroc, A Ciaravella, C Cockell, A Coustenis, C Danielski, L Decin, RD Kok, O Demangeon, P Deroo, P Doel, P Drossart, LN Fletcher, M Focardi, F Forget, S Fossey, P Fouqué, J Frith, M Galand, P Gaulme, JIG Hernández, O Grasset, D Grassi, JL Grenfell, MJ Griffin, CA Griffith, U Grözinger, M Guedel, P Guio, O Hainaut, R Hargreaves, PH Hauschildt, K Heng, D Heyrovsky, R Hueso, P Irwin, L Kaltenegger, P Kervella, D Kipping, TT Koskinen, G Kovács, A La Barbera, H Lammer, E Lellouch, G Leto, M Lopez Morales, MA Lopez Valverde, M Lopez-Puertas, C Lovis, A Maggio, JP Maillard, J Maldonado Prado, JB Marquette, FJ Martin-Torres, P Maxted, S Miller, S Molinari, D Montes, A Moro-Martin, JI Moses, O Mousis, N Nguyen Tuong, R Nelson, GS Orton, E Pantin, E Pascale, S Pezzuto, D Pinfield, E Poretti, R Prinja, L Prisinzano, JM Rees, A Reiners, B Samuel, A Sánchez-Lavega, JS Forcada, D Sasselov, G Savini, B Sicardy, A Smith, L Stixrude, G Strazzulla, J Tennyson, M Tessenyi, G Vasisht, S Vinatier, S Viti, I Waldmann, GJ White, T Widemann, R Wordsworth, R Yelle, Y Yung, SN Yurchenko


Spatial and temporal variations in Titans surface temperatures from Cassini CIRS observations

Planetary and Space Science 60 (2012) 62-71

V Cottini, CA Nixon, DE Jennings, R De Kok, NA Teanby, PGJ Irwin, FM Flasar

We report a wide-ranging study of Titans surface temperatures by analysis of the Moons outgoing radiance through a spectral window in the thermal infrared at 19 μm (530 cm -1) characterized by lower atmospheric opacity. We begin by modeling Cassini Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) far infrared spectra collected in the period 20042010, using a radiative transfer forward model combined with a non-linear optimal estimation inversion method. At low-latitudes, we agree with the HASI near-surface temperature of about 94 K at 10°S (Fulchignoni et al, 2005). We find a systematic decrease from the equator toward the poles, hemispherically asymmetric, of ∼1 K at 60° south and ∼3 K at 60° north, in general agreement with a previous analysis of CIRS data (Jennings et al, 2009), and with Voyager results from the previous northern winter. Subdividing the available database, corresponding to about one Titan season, into 3 consecutive periods, small seasonal changes of up to 2 K at 60°N became noticeable in the results. In addition, clear evidence of diurnal variations of the surface temperatures near the equator are observed for the first time: we find a trend of slowly increasing temperature from the morning to the early afternoon and a faster decrease during the night. The diurnal change is ∼1.5 K, in agreement with model predictions for a surface with a thermal inertia between 300 and 600 J m -2 s -1/2 K -1. These results provide important constraints on coupled surfaceatmosphere models of Titans meteorology and atmospheric dynamic. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Observations of upper tropospheric acetylene on Saturn: No apparent correlation with 2000 km-sized thunderstorms

Planetary and Space Science 65 (2012) 21-37

J Hurley, PGJ Irwin, LN Fletcher, JI Moses, B Hesman, J Sinclair, C Merlet

Thunderstorm activity has been observed on Saturn via radio emissions from lightning discharges and optical detections of the lightning flashes on the planets nightside. Thunderstorms provide extreme environments in which specific atmospheric chemistry can be induced - namely through energy release via lightning discharges, and fast vertical transport resulting in rapid advection of tropospheric species. It is thus theorised that certain atmospheric trace species such as C 2H 2, HCN, and CO can be generated in the troposphere by large bursts of energy in the form of lightning, and transported upward towards the upper troposphere by the extreme dynamics of thunderstorms, where they should be observable by satellite instruments. In this work, high-spectral-resolution Cassini/CIRS observations from October 2005 through April 2009 are used to study whether there is an observable increase in upper tropospheric acetylene in regions of known normal thunderstorm activity. Using both individual measurements in which there is known thunderstorm activity, as well as large coadditions of data to study latitudinal-dependencies over the full disc, no systematic enhancement in upper tropospheric (100 mbar) C 2H 2 was detected around regions in which there are known occurrences of normally sized (2000 km) thunderstorms, or in normally sized thunderstorm-prone regions such as 40°S. It is likely that the magnitude of the enhancement theorised is too generous or that enhancements are not advected into the upper troposphere as vertical mixing rates in models would suggest, since Cassini/CIRS can only detect C 2H 2 above the 200 mbar level - although the massive northern hemisphere thunderstorm of 2010/2011 seems able to decrease stratospheric concentrations of C 2H 2. From this, it can be asserted that lightning from normal thunderstorm activity cannot be the key source for upper tropospheric C 2H 2 on Saturn, since the upper-tropospheric concentrations retrieved agree with the concentrations stemming from the photolysis of CH 4 (23 ppbv) from solar radiation penetrating through the Saturnian atmosphere, with an upper limit for lightning-induced C 2H 2 volume mixing ratio of 10 -9. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Saturn's tropospheric composition and clouds from Cassini/VIMS 4.6-5.1μm nightside spectroscopy

Icarus 214 (2011) 510-533

LN Fletcher, KH Baines, TW Momary, AP Showman, PGJ Irwin, GS Orton, M Roos-Serote, C Merlet

The latitudinal variation of Saturn's tropospheric composition (NH3, PH3 and AsH3) and aerosol properties (cloud altitudes and opacities) are derived from Cassini/VIMS 4.6-5.1μm thermal emission spectroscopy on the planet's nightside (April 22, 2006). The gaseous and aerosol distributions are used to trace atmospheric circulation and chemistry within and below Saturn's cloud decks (in the 1- to 4-bar region). Extensive testing of VIMS spectral models is used to assess and minimise the effects of degeneracies between retrieved variables and sensitivity to the choice of aerosol properties. Best fits indicate cloud opacity in two regimes: (a) a compact cloud deck centred in the 2.5-2.8bar region, symmetric between the northern and southern hemispheres, with small-scale opacity variations responsible for numerous narrow light/dark axisymmetric lanes; and (b) a hemispherically asymmetric population of aerosols at pressures less than 1.4bar (whose exact altitude and vertical structure is not constrained by nightside spectra) which is 1.5-2.0× more opaque in the summer hemisphere than in the north and shows an equatorial maximum between ±10° (planetocentric).Saturn's NH3 spatial variability shows significant enhancement by vertical advection within ±5° of the equator and in axisymmetric bands at 23-25°S and 42-47°N. The latter is consistent with extratropical upwelling in a dark band on the poleward side of the prograde jet at 41°N (planetocentric). PH3 dominates the morphology of the VIMS spectrum, and high-altitude PH3 at p<1.3bar has an equatorial maximum and a mid-latitude asymmetry (elevated in the summer hemisphere), whereas deep PH3 is latitudinally-uniform with off-equatorial maxima near ±10°. The spatial distribution of AsH3 shows similar off-equatorial maxima at ±7° with a global abundance of 2-3ppb. VIMS appears to be sensitive to both (i) an upper tropospheric circulation (sensed by NH3 and upper-tropospheric PH3 and hazes) and (ii) a lower tropospheric circulation (sensed by deep PH3, AsH3 and the lower cloud deck). © 2011 Elsevier Inc.


Saturn's tropospheric composition and clouds from Cassini/VIMS 4.6-5.1 μm nightside spectroscopy

Icarus (2011)

LN Fletcher, KH Baines, TW Momary, AP Showman, PGJ Irwin, GS Orton, M Roos-Serote, C Merlet


Uranus' cloud structure and seasonal variability from Gemini-North and UKIRT observations

Icarus 212 (2011) 339-350

PGJ Irwin, NA Teanby, GR Davis, LN Fletcher, GS Orton, D Tice, A Kyffin

Observations of Uranus were made in September 2009 with the Gemini-North telescope in Hawaii, using both the NIFS and NIRI instruments. Observations were acquired in Adaptive Optics mode and have a spatial resolution of approximately 0.1″ NIRI images were recorded with three spectral filters to constrain the overall appearance of the planet: J, H-continuum and CH4(long), and long slit spectroscopy measurements were also made (1.49-1.79μm) with the entrance slit aligned on Uranus' central meridian. To acquire spectra from other points on the planet, the NIFS instrument was used and its 3″×3″ field of view stepped across Uranus' disc. These observations were combined to yield complete images of Uranus at 2040 wavelengths between 1.476 and 1.803μm. The observed spectra along Uranus central meridian were analysed with the NEMESIS retrieval tool and used to infer the vertical/latitudinal variation in cloud optical depth. We find that the 2009 Gemini data perfectly complement our observations/conclusions from UKIRT/UIST observations made in 2006-2008 and show that the north polar zone at 45°N has continued to steadily brighten while that at 45°S has continued to fade. The improved spatial resolution of the Gemini observations compared with the non-AO UKIRT/UIST data removes some of the earlier ambiguities with our previous analyses and shows that the opacity of clouds deeper than the 2-bar level does indeed diminish towards the poles and also reveals a darkening of the deeper cloud deck near the equator, perhaps coinciding with a region of subduction. We find that the clouds at 45°N,S lie at slightly lower pressures than the clouds at more equatorial latitudes, which suggests that they might possibly be composed of a different condensate, presumably CH4 ice, rather than H2S or NH3 ice, which is assumed for the deeper cloud. In addition, analysis of the centre-to-limb curves of both the Gemini/NIFS and earlier UKIRT/UIST IFU observations shows that the main cloud deck has a well-defined top, and also allows us to better constrain the particle scattering properties. Overall, Uranus appeared to be less convectively active in 2009 than in the previous 3years, which suggests that now the northern spring equinox (which occurred in 2007) is passed the atmosphere is settling back into the quiescent state seen by Voyager 2 in 1986. However, a number of discrete clouds were still observed, with one at 15°N found to lie near the 500 mb level, while another at 30°N, was seen to be much higher at near the 200 mb level. Such high clouds are assumed to be composed of CH4 ice. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.


Thermal structure and dynamics of Saturn's northern springtime disturbance.

Science 332 (2011) 1413-1417

LN Fletcher, BE Hesman, PGJ Irwin, KH Baines, TW Momary, A Sanchez-Lavega, FM Flasar, PL Read, GS Orton, A Simon-Miller, R Hueso, GL Bjoraker, A Mamoutkine, T del Rio-Gaztelurrutia, JM Gomez, B Buratti, RN Clark, PD Nicholson, C Sotin

Saturn's slow seasonal evolution was disrupted in 2010-2011 by the eruption of a bright storm in its northern spring hemisphere. Thermal infrared spectroscopy showed that within a month, the resulting planetary-scale disturbance had generated intense perturbations of atmospheric temperatures, winds, and composition between 20° and 50°N over an entire hemisphere (140,000 kilometers). The tropospheric storm cell produced effects that penetrated hundreds of kilometers into Saturn's stratosphere (to the 1-millibar region). Stratospheric subsidence at the edges of the disturbance produced "beacons" of infrared emission and longitudinal temperature contrasts of 16 kelvin. The disturbance substantially altered atmospheric circulation, transporting material vertically over great distances, modifying stratospheric zonal jets, exciting wave activity and turbulence, and generating a new cold anticyclonic oval in the center of the disturbance at 41°N.


Multispectral imaging observations of Neptune's cloud structure with Gemini-North

Icarus 216 (2011) 141-158

PGJ Irwin, NA Teanby, GR Davis, LN Fletcher, GS Orton, D Tice, J Hurley, SB Calcutt

Observations of Neptune were made in September 2009 with the Gemini-North Telescope in Hawaii, using the NIFS instrument in the H-band covering the wavelength range 1.477-1.803 μm. Observations were acquired in adaptive optics mode and have a spatial resolution of approximately 0.15-0.25″. The observations were analysed with a multiple-scattering retrieval algorithm to determine the opacity of clouds at different levels in Neptune's atmosphere. We find that the observed spectra at all locations are very well fit with a model that has two thin cloud layers, one at a pressure level of ∼2. bar all over the planet and an upper cloud whose pressure level varies from 0.02 to 0.08. bar in the bright mid-latitude region at 20-40°S to as deep as 0.2. bar near the equator. The opacity of the upper cloud is found to vary greatly with position, but the opacity of the lower cloud deck appears remarkably uniform, except for localised bright spots near 60°S and a possible slight clearing near the equator. A limb-darkening analysis of the observations suggests that the single-scattering albedo of the upper cloud particles varies from ∼0.4 in regions of low overall albedo to close to 1.0 in bright regions, while the lower cloud is consistent with particles that have a single-scattering albedo of ∼0.75 at this wavelength, similar to the value determined for the main cloud deck in Uranus' atmosphere. The Henyey-Greenstein scattering particle asymmetry of particles in the upper cloud deck are found to be in the range g∼ 0.6-0.7 (i.e. reasonably strongly forward scattering).Numerous bright clouds are seen near Neptune's south pole at a range of pressure levels and at latitudes between 60 and 70°S. Discrete clouds were seen at the pressure level of the main cloud deck (∼2. bar) at 60°S on three of the six nights observed. Assuming they are the same feature we estimate the rotation rate at this latitude and pressure to be 13.2 ± 0.1. h. However, the observations are not entirely consistent with a single non-evolving cloud feature, which suggests that the cloud opacity or albedo may vary very rapidly at this level at a rate not seen in any other giant-planet atmosphere. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.


A single-scattering approximation for infrared radiative transfer in limb geometry in the Martian atmosphere

Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer 112 (2011) 1568-1580

A Kleinböhl, JT Schofield, WA Abdou, PGJ Irwin, RJ de Kok

We present a single-scattering approximation for infrared radiative transfer in limb geometry in the Martian atmosphere. It is based on the assumption that the upwelling internal radiation field is dominated by a surface with a uniform brightness temperature. It allows the calculation of the scattering source function for individual aerosol types, mixtures of aerosol types, and mixtures of gas and aerosol. The approximation can be applied in a Curtis-Godson radiative transfer code and is used for operational retrievals from Mars Climate Sounder measurements. Radiance comparisons with a multiple scattering model show good agreement in the mid- and far-infrared although the approximate model tends to underestimate the radiances in realistic conditions of the Martian atmosphere. Relative radiance differences are found to be about 2% in the lowermost atmosphere, increasing to ~10% in the middle atmosphere of Mars. The increasing differences with altitude are mostly due to the increasing contribution to limb radiance of scattering relative to emission at the colder, higher atmospheric levels. This effect becomes smaller toward longer wavelengths at typical Martian temperatures. The relative radiance differences are expected to produce systematic errors of similar magnitude in retrieved opacity profiles. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.


Jovian temperature and cloud variability during the 2009-2010 fade of the South Equatorial Belt

Icarus 213 (2011) 564-580

LN Fletcher, GS Orton, JH Rogers, AA Simon-Miller, I de Pater, MH Wong, O Mousis, PGJ Irwin, M Jacquesson, PA Yanamandra-Fisher

Mid-infrared 7-20 μm imaging of Jupiter from ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT/VISIR) demonstrate that the increased albedo of Jupiter's South Equatorial Belt (SEB) during the 'fade' (whitening) event of 2009-2010 was correlated with changes to atmospheric temperature and aerosol opacity. The opacity of the tropospheric condensation cloud deck at pressures less than 800. mbar increased by 80% between May 2008 and July 2010, making the SEB (7-17°S) as opaque in the thermal infrared as the adjacent equatorial zone. After the cessation of discrete convective activity within the SEB in May 2009, a cool band of high aerosol opacity (the SEB zone at 11-15°S) was observed separating the cloud-free northern and southern SEB components. The cooling of the SEBZ (with peak-to-peak contrasts of 1.0 ± 0.5. K), as well as the increased aerosol opacity at 4.8 and 8.6 μm, preceded the visible whitening of the belt by several months. A chain of five warm, cloud-free 'brown barges' (subsiding airmasses) were observed regularly in the SEB between June 2009 and June 2010, by which time they too had been obscured by the enhanced aerosol opacity of the SEB, although the underlying warm circulation was still present in July 2010. Upper tropospheric temperatures (150-300. mbar) remained largely unchanged during the fade, but the cool SEBZ formation was detected at deeper levels (p>. 300. mbar) within the convectively-unstable region of the troposphere. The SEBZ formation caused the meridional temperature gradient of the SEB to decrease between 2008 and 2010, reducing the vertical thermal windshear on the zonal jets bounding the SEB. The southern SEB had fully faded by July 2010 and was characterised by short-wave undulations at 19-20°S. The northern SEB persisted as a narrow grey lane of cloud-free conditions throughout the fade process. The cool temperatures and enhanced aerosol opacity of the SEBZ after July 2009 are consistent with an upward flux of volatiles (e.g., ammonia-laden air) and enhanced condensation, obscuring the blue-absorbing chromophore and whitening the SEB by April 2010. These changes occurred within cloud decks in the convective troposphere, and not in the radiatively-controlled upper troposphere. NH3 ice coatings on aerosols at p<800mbar are plausible sources of the suppressed 4.8 and 8.6-μm emission, although differences in the spatial distribution of opacity at these two wavelengths suggest that enhanced attenuation by a deeper cloud(p>800mbar) also occurred during the fade. Revival of the dark SEB coloration in the coming months will ultimately require sublimation of these ices by subsidence and warming of volatile-depleted air. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.

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