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Effects of Haze Radiation and Eddy Heat Transport on the Thermal Structure of Pluto's Lower Atmosphere

Abstract : The temperature profile of Pluto's atmosphere has generally been assumed in a radiative-conductive equilibrium. Recent studies further highlighted the importance of radiative heating and cooling effects by haze particles. In this study, we update results from Zhang et al. by taking into account the icy haze composition proposed by Lavvas et al., and find that radiation of such an icy haze could still dominate the energy balance in the middle and upper atmosphere and explain the cold temperature observed by New Horizons. However, additional considerations are needed to explain the rapid decrease in temperature toward the icy surface at altitudes <25 km. We propose that vertical eddy heat transport might help maintain radiative-diffusive equilibrium in the lower atmosphere. In this scenario, our radiative-conductive-diffusive model (including both gas and haze) would match observations if the eddy diffusivity is on the order of 103 cm2 s-1. Alternatively, if eddy heat transport is not effective on Pluto, in order to match observations, haze albedo must increase rapidly with decreasing altitude and approach unity near the surface. This is a plausible result of additional ice condensation and/or cloud formation. In this scenario, haze radiation might still dominate over gas radiation and heat conduction to maintain radiative equilibrium. Better constraints on haze albedo at ultraviolet and visible wavelengths would be a key to distinguish these two scenarios. Future mid-infrared observations from the James Webb Space Telescope could also constrain the thermal emission and haze properties in Pluto's lower atmosphere.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, July 5, 2022 - 8:07:15 AM
Last modification on : Friday, August 5, 2022 - 12:00:56 PM

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Linfeng Wan, Xi Zhang, Tanguy Bertrand. Effects of Haze Radiation and Eddy Heat Transport on the Thermal Structure of Pluto's Lower Atmosphere. The Astrophysical Journal, 2021, 922, ⟨10.3847/1538-4357/ac25f2⟩. ⟨insu-03713737⟩

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