Study of Titan’s Upper and Lower Atmosphere : An Experimental Approach

David Dubois 1
1 IMPEC - LATMOS
LATMOS - Laboratoire Atmosphères, Milieux, Observations Spatiales
Abstract : Titan is the only moon in the SolarSystem to possess its own dense and gravitationallybound atmosphere, and is even larger than planetMercury. Its rocky diameter is a mere 117 km shy ofGanymede’s. If we were to scoop up a 1 cm3 sam-ple from Titan’s upper atmosphere, we would findtwo dominant molecules: molecular nitrogen N2 andmethane CH4. Should we look a bit more carefully,we would find many neutral molecules and positiveand negative ion compounds. These chemical speciesare the outcome of processes resulting from ener-getic radiation reaching Titan’s upper atmosphere,breaking apart the initial N2 and CH4. A cascadeof subsequent reactions will trigger the formationof new gas phase products more and more com-plex. Eventually, these products mainly contain-ing hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen will form largefractal aggregates composing the opaque haze en-shrouding the surface of Titan. This haze is whatgives Titan such a unique brownish hue. Most ofthe photochemically-produced volatiles will eventu-ally condense in the lower atmosphere, where theymay aggregate to form micrometer-sized icy parti-cles and clouds. During my PhD, I have focusedmy studies on (i) the gas phase reactivity of aerosolprecursors in experimental conditions analogous toTitan’s upper atmosphere (Chapters 3 & 4), and (ii)the end of life of some of the products as they con-dense in the lower and colder atmosphere (Chapter5). I used two experiments to address these respec-tive issues: the PAMPRE plasma reactor, located atLATMOS, UVSQ, Guyancourt, France, and the Ac-quabella chamber at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory,California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, USA.In this manuscript, I present my work on the neutraland positive ion reactivity in the PAMPRE plasmadischarge, as well as ice photochemistry results usinglaser irradiation in near-UV wavelengths.
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David Dubois. Study of Titan’s Upper and Lower Atmosphere : An Experimental Approach. Planetology. Université Paris-Saclay, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018SACLV049⟩. ⟨tel-01925462v2⟩

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