Neptune's spatial brightness temperature variations from the vla and alma

Joshua Tollefson*, Imke De Pater, Edward M. Molter, Robert J. Sault, Bryan J. Butler, Statia Luszcz-Cook, David DeBoer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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We present spatially resolved (0 1-1 0) radio maps of Neptune taken from the Very Large Array and Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array between 2015 and 2017. Combined, these observations probe from just below the main methane cloud deck at ∼1 bar down to the NH4SH cloud at ∼50 bar. Prominent latitudinal variations in the brightness temperature are seen across the disk. Depending on wavelength, the south polar region is 5-40 K brighter than the mid-latitudes and northern equatorial region. We use radiative transfer modeling coupled to Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods to retrieve H2S, NH3, and CH4 abundance profiles across the disk, though only strong constraints can be made for H2S. Below all cloud formation, the data are well fit by -53.8+13.4 18.9 and -3.9+3.1 2.1 protosolar enrichment in the H2S and NH3 abundances, respectively, assuming a dry adiabat. Models in which the radio-cold mid-latitudes and northern equatorial region are supersaturated in H2S are statistically favored over models following strict thermochemical equilibrium. H2S is more abundant at the equatorial region than at the poles, indicative of strong, persistent global circulation. Our results imply that Neptune's sulfur-tonitrogen ratio exceeds unity, as H2S is more abundant than NH3 in every retrieval. The absence of NH3 above 50 bar can be explained either by partial dissolution of NH3 in an ionic ocean at GPa pressures or by a planet formation scenario in which hydrated clathrates preferentially delivered sulfur rather than nitrogen onto planetesimals, or a combination of these hypotheses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105
Number of pages22
JournalPlanetary Science Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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