Deuterated Methane Observed on Saturn

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  28 Jul 1978:
Vol. 201, Issue 4353, pp. 343-345
DOI: 10.1126/science.201.4353.343


Absorptions for the V2 band of deuterated methane (CH3D) have been observed in the 5-micron spectrum of Saturn, obtained with a Fourier transform spectrometer. Analysis of the band yields a CH3D abundance of 2.6 ± 0.8 centimeter-amagat and a temperature of 175 ± 30 K for the mean level of spectroscopic line formation. This temperature indicates that a substantial portion of Saturn's flux at 5 microns is due to thermal radiation, and that we are therefore looking fairly deep into its atmosphere, as is the case for the Jupiter 5-micron window. This CH3D abundance leads to a deuteriumlhydrogen ratio of about 2 x 10-5 in Saturn's atmosphere. This ratio is much lower than the terrestrial value but comparable to that determined for Jupiter and may be taken as representative of the deuteriumlhydrogen ratio in the solar system at the time of its formation.