Dr. Kathy Rages

December 21, 2006

"Radiative Transfer Modeling of Planetary Atmospheric Structure"


The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) continues to produce spatially resolved images of the outer planets on a more-or-less yearly timescale, and is being joined by ground-based telescopes using adaptive optics to produce comparable (~0.1") spatial resolution in the near-infrared. Data from spacecraft such as Voyager and Galileo can still be exploited for very high spatial resolution and scattering geometries much different from any that can be observed from the vicinity of Earth, and Cassini is just beginning its multi-year mission in orbit around Saturn.

This project proposes, over a three year period, to utilize the results of past and ongoing spatially resolved observations of planetary atmospheres to model the vertical structure of scatterers in some of those atmospheres, including latitudinal variations, discrete albedo features, and temporal changes on time scales of months and years. The work will include investigating the properties and vertical distribution of albedo features seen over a 15-year period in Neptune’s atmosphere by both Voyager and HST, examining changes in Uranus’ atmosphere which may be seasonal in origin, and characterizing the properties of jovian and saturnian stratospheric hazes seen by Cassini, Galileo, Voyager, and HST.