A CO2 Cycle on Ariel? Radiolytic Production and Migration to Low-latitude Cold Traps

Richard J. Cartwright, Tom A. Nordheim, David R. DeColibus, William M. Grundy, Bryan J. Holler, Chloe B. Beddingfield, Michael M. Sori, Michael P. Lucas, Catherine M. Elder, Leonardo H. Regoli, Dale P. Cruikshank, Joshua P. Emery, Erin J. Leonard, Corey J. Cochrane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


CO2 ice is present on the trailing hemisphere of Ariel but is mostly absent from its leading hemisphere. The leading/trailing hemispherical asymmetry in the distribution of CO2 ice is consistent with radiolytic production of CO2, formed by charged particle bombardment of H2O ice and carbonaceous material in Ariel’s regolith. This longitudinal distribution of CO2 on Ariel was previously characterized using 13 near-infrared reflectance spectra collected at “low” sub-observer latitudes between 30°S and 30°N. Here we investigated the distribution of CO2 ice on Ariel using 18 new spectra: 2 collected over low sub-observer latitudes, 5 collected at “mid” sub-observer latitudes (31°N–44°N), and 11 collected over “high” sub-observer latitudes (45°N–51°N). Analysis of these data indicates that CO2 ice is primarily concentrated on Ariel’s trailing hemisphere. However, CO2 ice band strengths are diminished in the spectra collected over mid and high sub-observer latitudes. This sub-observer latitudinal trend may result from radiolytic production of CO2 molecules at high latitudes and subsequent migration of this constituent to low-latitude cold traps. We detected a subtle feature near 2.13 μm in two spectra collected over high sub-observer latitudes, which might result from a “forbidden” transition mode of CO2 ice that is substantially stronger in well-mixed substrates composed of CO2 and H2O ice, consistent with regolith-mixed CO2 ice grains formed by radiolysis. Additionally, we detected a 2.35 μm feature in some low sub-observer latitude spectra, which might result from CO formed as part of a CO2 radiolytic production cycle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8
JournalPlanetary Science Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Geophysics


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