Friday, March 18, 2016

Temporal variations of Titan’s surface with Cassini/VIMS

Temporal variations of Titan’s surface with Cassini/VIMS


Solomonidou et al


We analyze Cassini VIMS data of several areas on Titan’s surface looking for variations with time. Three of these locations are near the equator (10–30°S), namely Hotei Regio, Tui Regio and Sotra Patera; in some cases changes in brightness and/or in appearance were reported therein. We also investigate a portion of the undifferentiated plains, areas relatively homogeneous and dark in radar observations, located near 20–25°N. This is a follow-up on a previous paper in which we had inferred surface albedos for some distinct regions of interest (RoIs) identified within the Hotei, Tui and Sotra areas through a Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and radiative transfer (RT) modeling (Solomonidou [2014]. J. Geophys. Res. 119, 1729–1747). We apply the same methods here to a larger dataset looking for variations of the surface albedo with time and using the Huygens landing site as the ‘ground truth’ for calibration purposes. As expected, the undifferentiated plains remain unchanged from January 2010 to June 2012. Our analysis of Hotei Regio data from March 2005 to March 2009 also does not show any significant surface albedo variations within uncertainties. We note however that our RT retrievals are not optimal in this case because of the use of a plane-parallel code and the unfavorable geometry of the associated datasets. Conversely, Tui Regio and Sotra Patera show surface albedo fluctuations with time with pronounced trends for darkening and for brightening respectively. The Tui Regio spectrum exhibits a surface albedo decrease from March 2005 to February 2009, at 0.94, 1.08, 2.03, and 5 μm wavelengths, while the spectrum shape remains the same over that time. On the contrary, the Sotra Patera area became at least two times brighter within a year (April 2005–February 2006), at 1.58 μm, 2.03 μm, and 5 μm. We also retrieved surface albedo spectra for three reference regions surrounding Hotei, Tui and Sotra and for three additional regions we use as ‘test cases’ that correspond to dune fields. During the time periods explored here we find that, as expected and contrary to Tui Regio and Sotra Patera, the test cases did not show any significant changes in surface albedo. We therefore suggest that temporal variations of surface albedo exist for some areas on Titan, but that their origin may differ from one region to the other. They could be due to diverse, past and/or ongoing formation processes (endogenic and/or exogenic, possibly cryovolcanic), as discussed here.

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