Dr. Robert Whitten

January 2, 2007

“Electrification of the Clouds of Planets”


The charging of aerosol particles in planetary atmospheres is important in that free electrons produced by galactic cosmic rays (GCR) and (at high altitudes) by electrons precipitating from magnetospheres (if present) attach to the particles; this process can lead to the occurrence of lightning and the production of complex molecules of significance to the origins of life. Similar arguments concerning the occurrence of lightning on the dayside, where the particles are positively charged, also hold true. An earlier study (Borucki et al, 1987) using a much less sophisticated model led to preliminary results for the night side of Titan. A much more sophisticated model that simulates such effects has been developed and has yielded preliminary results for both the dayside and night side of Titan. Models are being investigated for Jupiter and Mars and well as for Titan.