Photoabsorption in Ganymede’s atmosphere

Abstract : In the framework of future space missions to Ganymede, a pre-study of this satellite is a necessary step to constrain instrument performances according to the mission objectives. This work aims at characterizing the impact of the solar UV flux on Ganymede's atmosphere and especially at deriving some key physical parameters that are measurable by an orbiter. Another objective is to test several models for reconstructing the solar flux in the Extreme-UV (EUV) in order to give recommendations for future space missions. Using a Beer-Lambert approach, we compute the primary production of excited and ionized states due to photoabsorption, neglecting the secondary production that is due to photoelectron impacts as well as to precipitated suprathermal electrons. Ions sputtered from the surface are also neglected. Computations are performed at the equator and close to the pole, in the same conditions as during the Galileo flyby. From the excitations, we compute the radiative relaxation leading to the atmospheric emissions. We also propose a simple chemical model to retrieve the stationary electron density. There are two main results: (i) the modelled electron density and the one measured by Galileo are in good agreement. The main atmospheric visible emission is the atomic oxygen red line at 630 nm, both in equatorial and in polar conditions, in spite of the different atmospheric compositions. This emission is measurable from space, especially for limb viewing conditions. The OH emission (continuum between 260 and 410 nm) is also probably measurable from space. (ii) The input EUV solar flux may be directly measured or reconstructed from only two passbands solar observing diodes with no degradation of the modelled response of the Ganymede's atmosphere. With respect to these results, there are two main conclusions: (i) future missions to Ganymede should include the measurement of the red line as well as the measurement of OH emissions in order to constrain the atmospheric model. (ii) None of the common solar proxies satisfactorily describes the level of variability of the solar EUV irradiance. For future atmospheric planetary space missions, it would be more appropriate to derive the EUV flux from a small radiometer rather than from a full-fledged spectrometer. (English)
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Gaël Cessateur, Jean Lilensten, Mathieu Barthélémy, Thierry Dudok de Wit, Cyril Simon Wedlund, et al.. Photoabsorption in Ganymede’s atmosphere. Icarus, Elsevier, 2012, 218 (1), pp.308-319. ⟨10.1016/j.icarus.2011.11.025⟩. ⟨insu-01293380⟩

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