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Active Sun boosts Titan's outer atmosphere

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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.

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