Radiolysis and photolysis of icy satellite surfaces: Experiments and theory

T. Cassidy, P. Coll, F. Raulin, R. W. Carlson, R. E. Johnson, M. J. Loeffler, K. P. Hand, R. A. Baragiola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


The transport and exchange of material between bodies in the outer solar system is often facilitated by their exposure to ionizing radiation. With this in mind we review the effects of energetic ions, electrons and UV photons on materials present in the outer solar system. We consider radiolysis, photolysis, and sputtering of low temperature solids. Radiolysis and photolysis are the chemistry that follows the bond breaking and ionization produced by incident radiation, producing, e.g., O2 and H2 from irradiated H2O ice. Sputtering is the ejection of molecules by incident radiation. Both processes are particularly effective on ices in the outer solar system. Materials reviewed include H2O ice, sulfur-containing compounds (such as SO2 and S8), carbon-containing compounds (such as CH4), nitrogen-containing compounds (such as NH3 and N2), and mixtures of those compounds. We also review the effects of ionizing radiation on a mixture of N2 and CH4 gases, as appropriate to Titan's upper atmosphere, where radiolysis and photolysis produce complex organic compounds (tholins).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-315
Number of pages17
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Ices
  • Photolysis
  • Radiolysis
  • Sputtering
  • Tholins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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