Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Titan's Bizarre Landscape Shaped More By Internal Heat Than Erosion, Scientist Predicts

Date:
October 15, 2002
Source:
University Of Arizona
Summary:
Six months after NASA's Cassini spacecraft reaches Saturn in July 2004, it will deploy the European Space Agency's Huygens probe to Saturn's largest moon, Titan. A cold, dark, smog-shrouded world nearly half the size of Earth, Titan is the only moon in the solar system with a thick atmosphere. Even the most advanced telescopes have been able to glimpse only vague light and dark patches through Titan's haze. So until the NASA/ESA Cassini-Huygens mission delivers the Huygens probe by parachute to Titan's surface in January 2005, scientists can only guess what its surface might be like.

Six months after NASA's Cassini spacecraft reaches Saturn in July 2004, it will deploy the European Space Agency's Huygens probe to Saturn's largest moon, Titan. A cold, dark, smog-shrouded world nearly half the size of Earth, Titan is the only moon in the solar system with a thick atmosphere.

Even the most advanced telescopes have been able to glimpse only vague light and dark patches through Titan's haze. So until the NASA/ESA Cassini-Huygens mission delivers the Huygens probe by parachute to Titan's surface in January 2005, scientists can only guess what its surface might be like.

"This is our chance to test the predictive power of scientific principles," says Ralph Lorenz, a senior research associate at the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

Lorenz, a member of both the Cassini spacecraft's radar mapping team and a co-investigator of the Surface Science Package on the Huygens probe, has developed a new perspective on how planetary landscapes are shaped. He spoke about it Wednesday in a press conference at the 34th annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division of Planetary Sciences in Birmingham, Ala.

Lorenz' idea is that Titan's landscape will show the effects of such mechanical processes as impact cratering, erosion by the atmosphere, and tectonics.

The amount of impact cratering on Titan can be estimated from the cratering record elsewhere in the Saturnian system, he said. Heat drives the other two processes, he added. Estimates of heat flow in the atmosphere and interior can be based on knowing how much sunlight reaches Titan and guessing at how much radioactive material is present in Titan's interior.

The rate at which heat drives Titan geology is confined by a well-known theoretical limit called the Carnot limit, he added. "In essence, the atmosphere and interior are assumed to work as heat engines operating at their maximum power output."

Lorenz calculates that erosion caused by wind-blown sand, wind-driven waves and other atmospheric forces is 400 times weaker on Titan than on Earth. Such tectonic forces as earthquakes, mountain building and other outputs of Titan's mantle heat engine are only 50 times weaker on Titan than on Earth. Tides and cratering are broadly comparable on the two bodies, he adds.

"These considerations suggest that Titan's landscape will have bizarre complexity, with craters and tectonics featuring prominently. These features will be comparably much less eroded than on Earth or Mars."

Lorenz, who began working on the Huygens project as an engineering for the European Space Agency in 1990, is a co-author of the book, "Lifting Titan's Veil."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Arizona. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Arizona. "Titan's Bizarre Landscape Shaped More By Internal Heat Than Erosion, Scientist Predicts." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 October 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/10/021015074637.htm>.
University Of Arizona. (2002, October 15). Titan's Bizarre Landscape Shaped More By Internal Heat Than Erosion, Scientist Predicts. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/10/021015074637.htm
University Of Arizona. "Titan's Bizarre Landscape Shaped More By Internal Heat Than Erosion, Scientist Predicts." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/10/021015074637.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Space Shuttle Discovery's Legacy, 30 Years Later

Space Shuttle Discovery's Legacy, 30 Years Later

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) The space shuttle Discovery launched for the very first time 30 years ago. Here's a look back at its legacy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experiment Tests Whether Universe Is Actually A Hologram

Experiment Tests Whether Universe Is Actually A Hologram

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) Researchers at Fermilab are using a device called "The Holometer" to test whether our universe is actually a 2-D hologram that just seems 3-D. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes After Liftoff

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes After Liftoff

Newsy (Aug. 23, 2014) The private spaceflight company says it is preparing a thorough investigation into Friday's mishap. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) Russian cosmonauts say they've found evidence of sea plankton on the International Space Station's windows. NASA is a little more skeptical. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins