Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Lakes shed light on Titan weather

Researchers have developed new techniques that further illuminate the importance of surface-climate interactions on the surface of Titan, Saturn's largest moon.
Lakes shed light on Titan weather
A collection of liquid hydrocarbon lakes and lake basins has been discovered in Titan's high latitudes. These exist because Saturn's eccentric orbit leads to asymmetric climate conditions on Titan.

The EU-funded TITANSLAKES (Titan's lakes: Croll-Milankovitch, seasonal and hydrologic cycles) initiative has increased understanding of Titan's climate and its effects on the moon's surface. TITANSLAKES worked to determine how Titan's variable orbit influences the long-term transport and surface reservoirs of volatile compounds. Another focus was on how Titan's lakes and seas respond to seasonal forcing.

Project researchers worked to identify the role of subsurface transport of methane and ethane. TITANSLAKES analysed image data to find ways to better understand Titan's overall climatologic and hydrologic evolution. Researchers also applied models for wind wave generation and detection to the Titan environment.

The team used Cassini RADAR SARtopo and altimetry data to construct a global map of Titan. They found four prominent topographic rises, each 200 km wide, radar-bright and heavily dissected, distributed over a 3 000-km arc in the south-eastern quadrant of Titan.

TITANSLAKES developed and applied a new image analysis technique combined with a denoising algorithm that offers previously unattainable insights. The researchers found that submerged valleys show similar depth, suggesting that they are similar to marine benches (narrow flat areas bounded by steeper slopes).

These new observations suggest a liquid level increase in the northern sea, which may be due to changes on seasonal or longer timescales.

These results illuminate the importance of surface-climate interactions on the surface of Titan. The information has led to a new Titan mission concept, currently proposed as a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) mission.

Related information

Subjects

Life Sciences

Keywords

Titan, surface-climate interactions, Saturn, liquid hydrocarbon lakes, TITANSLAKES
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