Status Report

Nitrogen Atmospheres of the Icy Bodies in the Solar System

By SpaceRef Editor
November 3, 2020
Filed under ,

M. Scherf, H. Lammer, N. V. Erkaev, K. E. Mandt, S. E. Thaller, B. Marty

This brief review will discuss the current knowledge on the origin and evolution of the nitrogen atmospheres of the icy bodies in the solar system, particularly of Titan, Triton and Pluto. An important tool to analyse and understand the origin and evolution of these atmospheres can be found in the different isotopic signatures of their atmospheric constituents. The 14N/15N ratio of the N2-dominated atmospheres of these bodies serve as a footprint of the building blocks from which Titan, Triton and Pluto originated and of the diverse fractionation processes that shaped these atmospheres over their entire evolution. Together with other measured isotopic and elemental ratios such as 12C/13C or Ar/N these atmospheres can give important insights into the history of the icy bodies in the solar system, the diverse processes that affect their N2-dominated atmospheres, and the therewith connected solar activity evolution. Titan’s gaseous envelope most likely originated from ammonia ices with possible contributions from refractory organics. Its isotopic signatures can yet be seen in the – compared to Earth – comparatively heavy 14N/15N ratio of 167.7, even though this value slightly evolved over its history due to atmospheric escape and photodissociation of N2. The origin and evolution of Pluto’s and Triton’s tenuous nitrogen atmospheres remain unclear, even though it might be likely that their atmospheres originated from the protosolar nebula or from comets. An in-situ space mission to Triton such as the recently proposed Trident mission, and/or to the ice giants would be a crucial cornerstone for a better understanding of the origin and evolution of the icy bodies in the outer solar system and their atmospheres in general.

Comments: 60 pages, 6 figures. This is a preprint of an article published in Space Science Reviews. The final authenticated version can be found online at : this https URL

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

Journal reference: Space Sci Rev 216, 123 (2020)

DOI: 10.1007/s11214-020-00752-0

Cite as: arXiv:2011.00973 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2011.00973v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history

From: Manuel Scherf

[v1] Mon, 2 Nov 2020 13:48:55 UTC (949 KB)

SpaceRef staff editor.