Galactic cosmic rays affect Titan’s atmosphere

Posted: February 14, 2020 by oldbrew in atmosphere, cosmic rays, research, solar system dynamics
Tags: ,

Saturn seen across a sea of methane on Titan by Huygens probe 2005

Some extracts from an article at, bypassing the chemistry details. A research professor commented: “The process could be universal”. Interesting…
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Planetary scientists using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) revealed the secrets of the atmosphere of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.

The team found a chemical footprint in Titan’s atmosphere indicating that cosmic rays coming from outside the Solar System affect the chemical reactions involved in the formation of nitrogen-bearing organic molecules.

This is the first observational confirmation of such processes, and impacts the understanding of the intriguing environment of Titan.

Titan is attracting much interest because of its unique atmosphere with a number of organic molecules that form a prebiotic environment.

Takahiro Iino, a scientist at the University of Tokyo, and his team used ALMA to reveal the chemical processes in Titan’s atmosphere.
. . .
There are two important players in the chemical processes of the atmosphere; ultraviolet (UV) light from the Sun and cosmic rays coming from outside the Solar System.
. . .
“We suppose that galactic cosmic rays play an important role in the atmospheres of other solar system bodies,” says Hideo Sagawa, an associate professor at Kyoto Sangyo University and a member of the research team. “The process could be universal, so understanding the role of cosmic rays in Titan is crucial in overall planetary science.”

Titan is one of the most popular objects in ALMA observations. The data obtained with ALMA needs to be calibrated to remove fluctuations due to variations of on-site weather and mechanical glitches.

For referencing, the observatory staff often points the telescope at bright sources, such as Titan, from time to time in science observations. Therefore, a large amount of Titan data is stored in the ALMA Science Archive.

Iino and his team have dug into the archive and re-analyzed the Titan data and found subtle fingerprints of very tiny amounts of [rare chemical] CH3C15N.

Full article here.
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Study preprint here.

  1. oldbrew says:

    These Scientists Say Cosmic Ray Radiation Has an Effect on Climate Change
    DAVID NIELD 20 DEC 2017

    ‘Cloud formation depends on a number of factors, including atmospheric temperature and the amount of water vapour in the air, but we might be able to add another influence to the mix: cosmic rays beaming down through space.’

  2. gbaikie says:

    It seems that Mars thin atmosphere does not have much interaction with GCR {and UV}. Or it occurs mostly at surface rather in the atmosphere.

  3. Oldbrew that article actually states that there is a difference in the N14/N15 ratios of some nitrogen bearing compounds in the atmosphere of Titan and this is due to difference in formation mechanism either from UV radiation originating from the sun or from GCR originating from outside the solar systems. The Titan atmosphere is special as the atmosphere has considerable CH4 (g & l) which acts similar to H2O (g,l &S) on Earth. On Titan there many other hydrocarbon molecules and some which contain nitrogen. The authors are basically saying GCR are influencing the atmosphere of Titan so it is likely there is an influence on other planets which have an atmosphere. It has been shown that GCR affect cloud formation on Earth and this could tie in with cycles of sunspots. Alarmist do not want to acknowledge GCR can affect clouds as it spoils their story about AGW. They do not want to admit that changes in cloud cover can change the incoming SWR and put a delay in the outgoing LWR.
    While GCR can explain some of the reasons for cycles of weather long & short periods it will not be the killer of the AGW or Climate scam. That killer should be the 2nd law of Thermodynamics which basically outlines that CO2 in the atmosphere can not affect the temperature of Earth’s surface. The sensitivity factor (doubling of CO2) should be practically zero. If CO2 slightly replaces H2O in the upper atmosphere there maybe a very small positive (not negative as the LWR of H2Og is more than 10 times CO2) but it will be so small to be unmeasurable. The measured facts that temperature changes lead CO2 changes supports that. I suggest that there is no “climate scientist” (alarmist or realist) that truly understands Heat Transfer or Thermodynamics. Technically ignorant is so a good description for all the alarmist and so-called lukewarmers.

  4. oldbrew says:

    cement – I agree cosmic rays shouldn’t be overrated. As Piers Corbyn says we don’t see obvious 11-year temperature/climate variations, whereas GCRs do vary inversely with the max/min of the solar cycle.

    Molecular weight (g/mol):
    Nitrogen 14.01
    Oxygen 16.00
    Carbon Dioxide 44.01
    [Methane 16.04 – re. Titan]

    Can carbon dioxide stay in the upper atmosphere for long, when its molecules are about 3 times the weight of those in most of the rest of the atmosphere?

    CO2 gas is heavier than air with a specific gravity of 1.53 at 70 dF

    Nitrogen (N2) 0.972
    Oxygen (O2) 1.105
    CO2 still + 50% more than these.

    Click to access DK-Lok%20-%20Specific%20Gravity%20Table.pdf

    [Methane 0.554]

    Density is defined as mass per unit volume of a substance, expressed in kilograms per cubic meter. At standard temperature and pressure, the combined density of air is 1.29 kilograms per cubic meter. By contrast, carbon dioxide has a density of 1.97 kilograms per cubic meter – the highest density of all the constituent gases. Atmospheric mixing keeps the chemicals in air aloft.

    ‘Atmospheric mixing keeps the chemicals in air aloft’ – assertion with no physics?

    Another claim…
    Dissolution of CO2 into the oceans is fast but the problem is that the top of the ocean is “getting full” and the bottleneck is thus the transfer of carbon from surface waters to the deep ocean.

    “getting full” – assertion with no physics?

  5. […] über Galactic cosmic rays affect Titan’s atmosphere — Tallbloke’s Talkshop […]

  6. Stuart Brown says:

    OB – isn’t there something wrong with that Lenntech calculation? O2 and N2 are diatomic gasses in the atmosphere so the molecular weights are 32 and 28, surely. Not to mention ozone, O3, with a molecular weight (48) slightly greater than CO2 and found in the stratosphere. (And there’s plenty of N2 at the bottom of the atmosphere too, fortunately!)