Distribution and interplay of geologic processes on Titan from Cassini radar data

By: , and 



The Cassini Titan Radar Mapper is providing an unprecedented view of Titan's surface geology. Here we use Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) image swaths (Ta-T30) obtained from October 2004 to December 2007 to infer the geologic processes that have shaped Titan's surface. These SAR swaths cover about 20% of the surface, at a spatial resolution ranging from ???350 m to ???2 km. The SAR data are distributed over a wide latitudinal and longitudinal range, enabling some conclusions to be drawn about the global distribution of processes. They reveal a geologically complex surface that has been modified by all the major geologic processes seen on Earth - volcanism, tectonism, impact cratering, and erosion and deposition by fluvial and aeolian activity. In this paper, we map geomorphological units from SAR data and analyze their areal distribution and relative ages of modification in order to infer the geologic evolution of Titan's surface. We find that dunes and hummocky and mountainous terrains are more widespread than lakes, putative cryovolcanic features, mottled plains, and craters and crateriform structures that may be due to impact. Undifferentiated plains are the largest areal unit; their origin is uncertain. In terms of latitudinal distribution, dunes and hummocky and mountainous terrains are located mostly at low latitudes (less than 30??), with no dunes being present above 60??. Channels formed by fluvial activity are present at all latitudes, but lakes are at high latitudes only. Crateriform structures that may have been formed by impact appear to be uniformly distributed with latitude, but the well-preserved impact craters are all located at low latitudes, possibly indicating that more resurfacing has occurred at higher latitudes. Cryovolcanic features are not ubiquitous, and are mostly located between 30?? and 60?? north. We examine temporal relationships between units wherever possible, and conclude that aeolian and fluvial/pluvial/lacustrine processes are the most recent, while tectonic processes that led to the formation of mountains and Xanadu are likely the most ancient. ?? 2009 Elsevier Inc.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Distribution and interplay of geologic processes on Titan from Cassini radar data
Series title Icarus
DOI 10.1016/j.icarus.2009.08.010
Volume 205
Issue 2
Year Published 2010
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Icarus
First page 540
Last page 558