Voyager Radio Science: Observations and Analysis of Neptune's Atmosphere

Ei-ichi MIZUNO  Nobuki KAWASHIMA  Tadashi TAKANO  Paul A. ROSEN  

IEICE TRANSACTIONS on Communications   Vol.E75-B   No.7   pp.665-672
Publication Date: 1992/07/25
Online ISSN: 
Print ISSN: 0916-8516
Type of Manuscript: PAPER
Category: Antennas and Propagation
voyager neptune encounter,  atmospheric multipath,  radio occultation,  temperature-pressure profile,  

Full Text: PDF>>
Buy this Article

Voyager Neptune radio science data were collected using three antennas on Earth on August 25, 1989. A parabolic antenna at Canberra, Australia, of 70 meter diameter received 2.3GHz and 8.4GHz carriers. The 64 meter parabolic antennas at Parkes. Australia and Usuda, Japan, received only the 8.4GHz and only the 2.3GHz carriers, respectively. It is necessary to reduce the frequency variation in the received signal carrier to extract accurate information on physically interesting objects such as Neptune's atmosphere, ionosphere, or the rings. After the frequency stabilization process, the frequency drift was reduced from 180Hz down to a maximum of 5Hz, making it possible to reduce the data bandwidth and, consequently, the data volume, by a factor of 30. The uncertainty of the signal frequency estimates were also reduced from 5 down to 510-3Hz/sec above the atmosphere, from 5 down to 0.5Hz/sec in the atmosphere, and from 50 down to 3Hz/sec at the beginning and the end of the atmospheric occultation. Much of the remaining uncertainty is due to scintillations in Neptune's atmosphere and cannot be reduced further. The estimates are thus meaningfully accurate and suitable for scientific analysis and coherent arraying of data from different antennas. Two results based on these estimates are shown: a preliminary temperature-pressure (T-p) profile of Neptune's atmosphere down to a pressure level of 2 bar computed using the Usuda 2.3GHz data, and a multipath phenomenon in the atmosphere seen in Canberra 8.4GHz data. Our T-p profile shows good agreement with the results presented by Lindal et al. within 1K below 100mbar pressure level, even though our result is based on an independent data set and processing. A comparison of the multipath phenomena at Neptune with that at Uranus implies that it was created by a cloud layer with a smaller scale height than the atmosphere above and below it. The processing methods described were developed in part with the interest to coherently array Canberra, Parkes and Usuda data. In this sense, while this paper does not extend any science results, the observations and results are derived independently from other published results, and in the case of Usuda, are completely new.