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Titan’s icy alley: An elusive surface revealed

20 Jan 2020, 20:50 UTC
Titan’s icy alley: An elusive surface revealed
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Title: A corridor of exposed ice-rich bedrock across Titan’s tropical regionAuthors: Caitlin A. Griffith, Paulo F. Penteado, Jake D. Turner, Catherine D. Neish, Giuseppe Mitri, Nicholas J. Montiel, Ashley Schoenfeld, Rosaly M. C. LopesFirst Author’s Institution: Department of Planetary Sciences, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tuscon, Arizona, USAStatus: Published in Nature Astronomy [closed access]

A song of ice and carbonAlthough Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is expected to have an icy composition, unambiguous detection of H2O ice on its surface has been less than straightforward. Titan inspires great intrigue given its Earth-like landforms, including lakes, rivers, sand dunes, mountains, and possibly volcanoes. However, these features occur at frigid temperatures (~94 K) and have very different compositions than their terrestrial counterparts. Whereas Earth has water flowing over a silicate rock surface, Titan has liquid methane and ethane flowing over a surface that likely includes both ice and carbon-bearing organic compounds.So where is the H2O? Based on Titan’s low density (1.88 g/cm3), it is thought to be made up of H2O around a wet, rocky core. In a popular model of its interior, Titan has differentiated, or organized into layers, such that the H2O layer includes an upper crust of “normal” ...

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