The microwave opacity of ammonia and water vapor: application to remote sensing of the atmosphere of Jupiter
Hanley, Thomas Ryan
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The object of this research program has been to provide a baseline for microwave remote sensing of ammonia and water vapor in the atmosphere of Jupiter through laboratory measurements of their microwave absorption properties. Jupiter is not only the largest planet in our solar system, but one of the most interesting and complex. Despite a handful of spacecraft missions and many astronomical measurements, much of Jupiter s atmospheric dynamics and composition remain a mystery. Although constraints have been formed on the amount of certain gases present, the global abundances and distributions of water vapor (H2O) and ammonia (NH3) are relatively unknown. Measurements of H2O and NH3 in the Jovian atmosphere to hundreds of bars of pressure are best accomplished via passive microwave emission measurements. For these measurements to be accurately interpreted, however, the hydrogen and helium pressure-broadened microwave opacities of H2O and NH3 must be well characterized, a task that is very difficult if based solely on theory and limited laboratory measurements. Therefore, accurate laboratory measurements have been taken under a broad range of conditions that mimic those of the Jovian atmosphere. These measurements, performed using a newly redesigned high-accuracy system, and the corresponding models of microwave opacity that have been developed from them comprise the majority of this work. The models allow more accurate retrievals of H2O and NH3 abundances from previous as well as future missions to Jupiter and the outer planets, such as the NASA New Frontiers class Juno mission scheduled for launch in 2011. This information will enable a greater understanding of the concentration and distribution of H2O and NH3 in the Jovian atmosphere, which will reveal much about how Jupiter and our solar system formed and how similar planets could form in other solar systems, even planets that may be hospitable to life.