Friday, March 25, 2016

The physical properties of Titan’s empty lake basins

Constraining the physical properties of Titan’s empty lake basins using nadir and off-nadir Cassini RADAR backscatter


Michaelides et al


We use repeat synthetic aperture radar (SAR) observations and complementary altimetry passes acquired by the Cassini spacecraft to study the scattering properties of Titan’s empty lake basins. The best-fit coefficients from fitting SAR data to a quasi-specular plus diffuse backscatter model suggest that the bright basin floors have a higher dielectric constant, but similar facet-scale rms surface facet slopes, to surrounding terrain. Waveform analysis of altimetry returns reveals that nadir backscatter returns from basin floors are greater than nadir backscatter returns from basin surroundings and have narrower pulse widths. This suggests that floor deposits are structurally distinct from their surroundings, consistent with the interpretation that some of these basins may be filled with evaporitic and/or sedimentary deposits. Basin floor deposits also express a larger diffuse component to their backscatter, which is likely due to variations in subsurface structure or an increase in roughness at the wavelength scale (Hayes, A.G. et al. [2008]. Geophys. Res. Lett. 35, 9). We generate a high-resolution altimetry radargram of the T30 altimetry pass over an empty lake basin, with which we place geometric constraints on the basin’s slopes, rim heights, and depth. Finally, the importance of these backscatter observations and geometric measurements for basin formation mechanisms is briefly discussed.

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