EGU22-8878, updated on 28 Mar 2022
EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Re-analysis of the Cassini RPWS/LP data in Titan’s ionosphere: electron density and temperature of cold electron populations

Audrey Chatain1,2, Jan-Erik Wahlund3, Oleg Shebanits3, Lina Z. Hadid2, Michiko Morooka3, Niklas J. T. Edberg3, Nathalie Carrasco1, and Olivier Guaitella2
Audrey Chatain et al.
  • 1Université Paris-Saclay, UVSQ, CNRS, LATMOS, Guyancourt, France (
  • 2LPP, Ecole polytechnique, Sorbonne Université, université Paris-sud, CNRS, Palaiseau, France
  • 3Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Uppsala, Sweden

The Cassini Langmuir Probe (LP) data acquired in the ionosphere of Titan are re-analysed to finely study the electron behaviour in the birthplace of Titan’s aerosols (900-1200 km) [Waite et al 2007].

The detailed analysis of the complete Cassini LP dataset below 1200 km (57 flybys) shows the systematic detection of 2 to 4 electron populations (further named P1, P2, P3, P4), with reproducible characteristics depending on altitude and solar illumination. Populations P1 and P2 are always present, contrarily to P3 and P4. Due to their low density and low potential, P1 electrons are suspected to be photo-electrons [Wahlund et al 2009] or secondary electrons emitted on the probe stick.

The electron populations densities and temperatures are deduced from the Orbital Motion Limited theory and the Sheath Limited theory [Wahlund et al 2009, Whipple 1965]. We observe that electron temperatures do not vary much with altitude between 1200 and 950 km, except for P4. Statistical correlations with other quantities measured by Cassini are investigated. In particular, we observe that P3 and P4 densities are correlated with the extreme UV flux.

From our results we suggest possible origins for the three populations P2, P3 and P4, coming from the plasma surrounding the probe:

-P2 is detected in all cases, at rather low density (~500 cm-3) and temperature (~0.04 eV). These are possibly induced by particle precipitation.

-P3 electrons are denser with stronger solar illumination and higher pressure (up to 3000 cm-3). Therefore, they are likely to be related to photo-ionization. They are hotter than P2 electrons (~0.06-0.07 eV).

-P4 electrons are only observed on dayside and below 1200 km, in the place where heavy negative ions and aerosols are present. They are then plausibly linked to dusty plasma effects. We suggest two possible formation processes: (1) the photo-emission of electrons from grains could be triggered by photons of a few eV due to the negative charge born by the aerosols [Shebanits et al 2016; Tigrine et al 2018] ; (2) electrons could also be thermo-emitted from the grains, as a result of their heating by diverse processes such as heterogeneous chemistry, sticking of electrons or recombination of radicals [Woodard et al 2020].

How to cite: Chatain, A., Wahlund, J.-E., Shebanits, O., Hadid, L. Z., Morooka, M., Edberg, N. J. T., Carrasco, N., and Guaitella, O.: Re-analysis of the Cassini RPWS/LP data in Titan’s ionosphere: electron density and temperature of cold electron populations, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-8878,, 2022.


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