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Posted 18 October 2013 - 06:52 PM
The active Sun boosts Titan's outer atmosphere
The NASA-ESA-ASI Cassini spacecraft has been observing the Saturn system, including the giant satellite Titan, for more than 9 years. A detailed analysis of Cassini data has now confirmed predictions that the density of Titan's ionosphere is directly linked to the 11 year cycle of solar activity.
All planets and satellites with atmospheres possess an ionosphere, a region in the upper atmosphere which is dominated by ionised (electrically charged) particles – electrons and ions. These ionospheres are formed mainly from the photoionisation of the atmosphere, which occurs when solar X-rays and extreme ultraviolet (EUV) radiation split atmospheric molecules into ions and electrons. As a result, the density of the ionosphere peaks above the planet's day hemisphere and is much lower above the night side.
"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001