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D to H ratio and the origin and evolution of Titan's atmosphere

Abstract

A value of 1.7 × 10−3 has been reported1 for the ratio of CH3D to CH4 in the stratosphere of the saturnian moon Titan. A lower value of 6 × 10−4 for this ratio in the deeper part of Titan's atmosphere was reported by de Bergh et al.2. For comparison3–11 we note that the CH3D to CH4 ratio on Saturn and Jupiter is 8.7 × 10−5 and 6.7 × 10−5, respectively (see Table 1). We estimate the uncertainties in all these observations and data reduction to be about a factor of 2. Despite these uncertainties it appears that Titan's atmosphere is enriched in deuterium by a factor of ≥3 relative to Jupiter and Saturn. Potential causative factors examined here for this enrichment are condensation to form tropospheric methane clouds, f ractionation occurring over a hypothetical CH4–C2H6 ocean and between the ocean and the clathrate crust beneath, fractionation which occurred during the formation of Titan and fractionation occurring as a result of the evolution of Titan's atmosphere. We conclude that the greater part of the observed fractionation is probably derived from the formation of Titan and the subsequent evolution of Titan's atmosphere driven by photochemistry.

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Pinto, J., Lunine, J., Kim, SJ. et al. D to H ratio and the origin and evolution of Titan's atmosphere. Nature 319, 388–390 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1038/319388a0

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