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Characterization of Titan's Ontario Lacus region from Cassini/VIMS observations

M. L. Moriconi, J. I. Lunine, A. Adriani, E. D'Aversa, A. Negrão, G. Filacchione, A. Coradini

Liquid hydrocarbons were long predicted on Titan's surface before the RADAR instrument onboard Cassini detected lakes poleward of 70°N in July 2006. Before that the Cassini Imaging Science Subsystem(ISS) observed a lake-like feature in the South Pole, named Ontario Lacus, in July 2004. Here we analyze one observation of Ontario Lacus taken by the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer(VIMS) on 2007 December 5, during the T 38 flyby. This is the best spatially resolved image of a Titan lake to date by an imaging spectrometer, and has been previously reported in Brown et al.(Brown, R.H., Soderblom, L.A., Soderblom, J.M., Clark, R.N., Jaumann, R., Barnes, J.W., Sotin, C., Buratti, B., Baines, K.H., Nicholson, P.D. [2008]. Nature 454, 607-610) and in Barnes et al.(Barnes, J.W. et al. [2009]. Icarus 201, 217-225). The observing geometry and our data processing will be explained, followed by a discussion of the main characteristics of the image. The analyzed image covers a small portion of Ontario Lacus and shows what appears from RADAR data to be a region of modest slope("ramp") adjacent to the dark lake itself. Our analysis of 5.0 mum spectral data suggests that the previously reported absorption feature of ethane seen at shorter wavelengths may be produced by damp sediments adjacent to the main liquid basin. The latter appears to be absorbing all of the photons incident upon it in the 5 mum spectral region and shows no discernible absorption features. A characterization of the basin composition and morphology is developed with the help of ISS and RADAR observations. The simplest model consistent with the data is an optically deep lake surrounded by a region in which ethane, propane, possibly methane, and other, less volatile hydrocarbons and nitriles are present mixed into spectroscopically neutral sediments. The dominance of relatively low vapor pressure organics outside the lake itself suggests a retreat of Ontario Lacus associated with evaporation on seasonal or longer timescales, consistent with analysis of RADAR and ISS images.

Titan - Satellites - Surfaces - Infrared: observations - Image: processing

Volume 210, Number 2, Page 823
2010 December

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Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia COMPETE 2020 PORTUGAL 2020 União Europeia