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Release of volatiles from a possible cryovolcano from near-infrared imaging of Titan

Nature

By:
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
DOI: 10.1038/nature03596

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Abstract

Titan is the only satellite in our Solar System with a dense atmosphere. The surface pressure is 1.5 bar (ref. 1) and, similar to the Earth, N 2 is the main component of the atmosphere. Methane is the second most important component, but it is photodissociated on a timescale of 10 years (ref. 3). This short timescale has led to the suggestion that Titan may possess a surface or subsurface reservoir of hydrocarbons to replenish the atmosphere. Here we report near-infrared images of Titan obtained on 26 October 2004 by the Cassini spacecraft. The images show that a widespread methane ocean does not exist; subtle albedo variations instead suggest topographical variations, as would be expected for a more solid (perhaps icy) surface. We also find a circular structure ???30 km in diameter that does not resemble any features seen on other icy satellites. We propose that the structure is a dome formed by upwelling icy plumes that release methane into Titan's atmosphere.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Release of volatiles from a possible cryovolcano from near-infrared imaging of Titan
Series title:
Nature
DOI:
10.1038/nature03596
Volume
435
Issue:
7043
Year Published:
2005
Language:
English
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Nature
First page:
786
Last page:
789
Number of Pages:
4