Saturday, March 26, 2016

The "Magic Islands" of Titan's Ligeia Mare are Probably Large Waves

Titan’s “Magic Islands”: Transient features in a hydrocarbon sea


Hofgartner et al


The region of Titan’s hydrocarbon sea, Ligeia Mare, where transient bright features were previously discovered, was anomalously bright in the first of two more recent Cassini RADAR observations but not the second. Another transient bright feature in a different region of Ligeia Mare was also discovered in the first of the new observations. Here we present all the high-resolution observations of the regions containing these transient features and the quantitative constraints that we derived from them. We argue that these features are unlikely to be SAR image artifacts or permanent geophysical structures and thus their appearance is the result of ephemeral phenomena on Titan. We find that the transient features are more consistent with floating and/or suspended solids, bubbles, and waves than tides, sea level change, or seafloor change and based on the frequency of these phenomena in terrestrial settings, we consider waves to be the most probable hypothesis. These transient features are the first instance of active processes in Titan’s lakes and seas to be confirmed by multiple detections and demonstrate that Titan’s seas are not stagnant but rather dynamic environments.

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