Turtle, E. P., Barnes, J., Buratti, B. J., Collins, G., Fussner, S., Lopes, R., Lorenz, R. D., Lunine, J. I., McCord, T. B., McEwen, A. S., Nelson, R., Perry, J., Porco, C. C., Soderblom, L., Sotin, C., Wall, S. D. (2005). "Exploring the Surface of Titan with Cassini-Huygens." Eos Trans. AGU 86(52), Fall Meet. Suppl., Abstract P44A-01 I.


Abstract

Over the past year, the Cassini-Huygens mission has returned a wealth of data about the surface of Saturn's satellite Titan. Cassini's Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS), RADAR, and Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS), and Huygens' Descent Imaging Spectral Radiometer (DISR) have revealed an intriguing surface that is at once familiar and alien. Although water-ice and liquid hydrocarbons play the roles that rock and water play on Earth, the surface appears to have been worked by a wide variety of processes resulting in a seemingly Earth-like balance of fluvial, aeolian, and volcanic features, with relatively few impact craters. There seem to be at least two classes of surface material: dark areas (at visible-IR wavelengths) that are spectrally consistent with contaminated water ice, and brighter areas of unknown composition which show greater variations. The expected bodies of liquids have yet to be definitively identified, however, circumstantial evidence for liquids having acted upon the surface in Titan's past is abundant, primarily in the form of channels, and possible ponds or lakes, which have been observed by multiple instruments. Other features suggest that wind redistributes some surface materials, most likely the detritus of the complex atmospheric chemistry, creating diffuse IR-bright deposits and long, narrow, radar-dark (2.2-cm) stripes, all of which trend generally east-west. Only two impact structures have been identified to date, although several other suspiciously circular features have been documented. A variety of the morphologies observed bear strong resemblances to volcanic structures. A number of other features remain mysterious and further co-analysis of these data sets, as well as the anticipated acquisition of more data, will be needed to fully understand the nature of Titan's surface, the albedo variations observed at different wavelengths, and the processes that have acted upon it (and may continue to). In addition to the Huygens descent, the Cassini orbiter has observed Titanon six close passes to date, and two more are planned for Fall 2005 which will increase both the spatial coverage, at various wavelengths, and the time base over which observations have been made as northern-hemisphere spring approaches. We will present observations of Titan's surface acquired by the complementary suite of instruments on board Cassini-Huygens, the combination of which is proving essential to interpreting Titan's geology.