DPS 35th Meeting, 1-6 September 2003
Session 40. Outer Planets/Gas Giants IV
Poster, Highlighted on, Friday, September 5, 2003, 3:30-6:00pm, Sierra Ballroom I-II

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[40.03] Atmospheric Physics with Occultation Light Curve Spikes

A. Cooray (Caltech), J. E. Elliot (MIT)

We discuss the use of refractive scintillation spikes observed in occultation light curves of giant planet atmospheres as a probe of inhomogeneous structures in the atmosphere. The approach is based on a numerical calculation where we introduce density inhomogeneities to the smooth exponential atmosphere and propagate rays through it to produce model light curves. These curves are then compared to a large set of observational data obtained during the occultation of GSC5249-01240 by Saturn. We discuss the extent to which density inhomogeneities can be identified with fluctuations expected from either vertically propagating gravity waves or associated turbulence related to the wave decay due to effects such as kinematic viscosity. We will also discuss the phenomena of sharp occultation spikes associated with ray crossing situations and generally referred to as caustics in other contexts. We will address the extent to which atmospheric physics can be extracted from diffraction fringes present in these cases and observed for the first time in this data set.

This work is supported by NSF and NASA (at MIT) and by DOE and Sherman Fairchild foundation (at Caltech).

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The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: asante@caltech.edu

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #4
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.