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Titan's Mobile Surface: Eolian Activity, Erosion, and Tectonism on Titan from Cassini Radar

Friday, April 24, 2009
Jani
Radebaugh (Brigham Young University)

Images of Titan from the Cassini spacecraft, in orbit around Saturn since 2004, reveal a surface with morphological youth nearly equivalent to Earth. A dense atmosphere and active hydrologic cycle have caused the production and subsequent saltation of organic sands into vast fields of dunes, much like the linear dune fields of Saharan and Namibian fame, covering the desert equatorial regions. Methane rainfall onto water ice bedrock has carved prodigious numbers of channels, dry at low latitudes and liquid-filled near polar regions, and up to several kilometers in width and several hundred kilometers in length. Bedrock morphologies display evidence of extensional and compressional tectonism in the form of linear valleys and parallel ridges, and thus reveal internal activity and past crustal mobility. Studies of surface morphologies on this distant moon will feed back into our emerging understanding of processes such as linear dune formation on Earth and compressional tectonism in icy satellites.

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