DPS 34th Meeting, October 2002
Session 22. Titan
Oral, Chair(s): M.E. Brown and A. Coustenis, Wednesday, October 9, 2002, 10:10-10:30am and 11:00am-12:30pm, Ballroom

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[22.03] Impact of aerosols present in Titan's atmosphere on The Cassini Radar experiment

S. Rodriguez, P. Paillou, M. Dobrijevic (Observatoire de Bordeaux), G. Ruffie (PIOM), P. Coll, J.M. Bernard (LISA), P. Encrenaz (LERMA)

One of the goals of the Cassini-Huygens mission, which will reach Saturn in 2004, is the study of the satellite Titan (its atmosphere and surface) by means of various remote sensing instruments on the orbiter and with the entry of the Huygens probe into Titan's atmosphere. In particular, the Cassini Radar experiment will use the high gain antenna at 13.78 GHz to "see" through Titan's atmosphere and map about 30 Two active modes (SAR and altimeter) and a passive mode (radiometer) will be used within the Radar experiment.

The interpretation of future radar acquisitions will be conditioned by the electric properties of the atmospheric components the radar pulse will encounter, as well as the Titan's surface reflectivity. For this purpose, we made some dielectric constant measurements on synthetic analogs of Titan's aerosols, i.e. tholins. We found \varepsilon'=2-2.5 and a loss tangent between 5.10-2 and 10-3. These results were combined to scenarii of aerosol and rain formation in Titan's atmosphere into a simple simulation of the atmospheric transmission (Rayleigh and Mie scattering) in order to estimate the way aerosols and rain particles will affect the performance of the radar instrument, by attenuating the radar pulse before it reaches the surface. Results we obtained are surprisingly pessimistic for numbers of published atmospheric models, with computed attenuations that can be higher than 12 dB. Indeed, the occurrence of hydrocarbon rain in the low atmosphere could have a prejudicial effect on the radar pulses, since they could be partially attenuated, completely reflected, or distorted before reaching Titan's surface.

We conclude on possible consequences that such atmospheric effects could have on the future analysis of Cassini Radar data. We also propose alternative ways to use combined altimeter and SAR data in order to decorrelate atmospheric and surface effects and then map the surface with less ambiguity, but also study the particles distribution in Titan's atmosphere. This work was supported by the French Programme National de Planétologie of the Institut National des Sciences de l'Univers, CNRS.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 34, #3< br> © 2002. The American Astronomical Soceity.