The altitude of an infrared bright cloud feature on Neptune from near-infrared spectroscopy

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Title: The altitude of an infrared bright cloud feature on Neptune from near-infrared spectroscopy
Author: Roe, Henry; Graham, James; McLean, Ian; de Pater, Imke; Becklin, Eric; Figer, Donald; Gilbert, Andrea; Larkin, James; Levenson, Nancy; Teplitz, Harry; Wilcox, Mavourneen
Abstract: We present 2.03-2.30 µm near-infrared spectroscopy of Neptune taken 1999 June 2 (UT) with the W.M. Keck Observatory’s near-infrared spectrometer (NIRSPEC) during the commissioning of the instrument. The spectrum is dominated by a bright cloud feature, possibly a storm or upwelling, in the southern hemisphere at approximately 50.◦S latitude. The spectrum also includes light from a dimmer northern feature at approximately 30.◦N latitude. We compare our spectra ( / 2000) of these two features with a simple model of Neptune’s atmosphere. Given our model assumption that the clouds are flat reflecting layers, we find that the top of the bright southern cloud feature sat at a pressure level of 0.14 +0.05 −0.03 bar, and thus this cloud did not extend into the stratosphere (P< 0.1 bar). A similar analysis of the dimmer northern feature gives a cloud-top pressure of 0.084±0.026 bar. This suggests that the features we observed efficiently transport methane to the base of the stratosphere, but do not directly transport methane to the upper stratosphere (P< 10−2 − 10−3 bar) where photolysis occurs. Our observations do not constrain how far these clouds penetrate down into the troposphere. We find that our model fits to the data restrict the fraction of H2 in ortho/para thermodynamic equilibrium to greater than 0.8. (Refer to PDF file for exact formulas).
Description: Also archived in: arXiv:astro-ph/0107361 v1 19 Jul 2001
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Date: 2001-08

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