Vertical Structure of the Ionosphere and Upper Neutral Atmosphere of Saturn from the Pioneer Radio Occultation

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Science  25 Jan 1980:
Vol. 207, Issue 4429, pp. 446-449
DOI: 10.1126/science.207.4429.446


Radio occultation measurements at S band (2.293 gigahertz) of the ionosphere and upper neutral atmosphere of Saturn were obtained during the flyby of the Pioneer 11 Saturn spacecraft on 5 September 1979. Preliminary analysis of the occultation exit data taken at a latitude of 9.5°S and a solar zenith angle of 90.6° revealed the presence of a rather thin ionosphere, having a main peak electron density of about 9.4 x 10/3 per cubic centimeter at an altitude of about 2800 above the level of a neutral number density of 1019 per cubic centimeter and a lower peak of about 7 x 103 per cubic centimeter at 2200 kilometers. Data in the neutral atmosphere were obtained to a pressure level of about 120 millibars. The temperature structure derived from these data is consistent with the results of the Pioneer 11 Saturn infrared radiometer experiment (for a helium fraction of 15 percent) and with models derived from Earth-based observations for a helium fraction by number of about 4 to 10 percent. The helium fraction will be further defined by mutual iteration with the infrared radiometer team.

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