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Saturn's Titan: Surface change, ammonia, and implications for atmospheric and tectonic activity

Icarus

By:
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DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2008.08.013

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Abstract

Titan is known to have a young surface. Here we present evidence from the Cassini Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer that it is currently geologically active. We report that changes in the near-infrared reflectance of a 73,000 km2 area on Titan (latitude 26?? S, longitude 78?? W) occurred between July 2004 and March of 2006. The reflectance of the area increased by a factor of two between July 2004 and March-April 2005; it then returned to the July 2004 level by November 2005. By late December 2005 the reflectance had surged upward again, establishing a new maximum. Thereafter, it trended downward for the next three months. Detailed spectrophotometric analyses suggest these changes happen at or very near the surface. The spectral differences between the region and its surroundings rule out changes in the distribution of the ices of reasonably expected materials such as H2O, CO2, and CH4 as possible causes. Remarkably, the change is spectrally consistent with the deposition and removal of NH3 frost over a water ice substrate. NH3 has been proposed as a constituent of Titan's interior and has never been reported on the surface. The detection of NH3 frost on the surface might possibly be explained by episodic effusive events occur which bring juvenile ammonia from the interior to the surface. If so, its decomposition would feed nitrogen to the atmosphere now and in the future. The lateral extent of the region exceeds that of active areas on the Earth (Hawaii) or Io (Loki). ?? 2008 Elsevier Inc.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Saturn's Titan: Surface change, ammonia, and implications for atmospheric and tectonic activity
Series title:
Icarus
DOI:
10.1016/j.icarus.2008.08.013
Volume
199
Issue:
2
Year Published:
2009
Language:
English
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Icarus
First page:
429
Last page:
441
Number of Pages:
13