publication 21-October-2017 16:05:18

Composition, seasonal change, and bathymetry of Ligeia Mare, Titan, derived from its microwave thermal emission

Publication date: 25 February 2016

Authors: Le Gall, A., et al.

Journal: Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Volume: 121
Issue: 2
Page: 233-251
Year: 2016

Copyright: © 2016 American Geophysical Union

For the last decade, the passive radiometer incorporated in the Cassini RADAR has recorded the 2.2 cm wavelength thermal emission from Titan's seas. In this paper, we analyze the radiometry observations collected from February 2007 to January 2015 over one of these seas, Ligeia Mare, with the goal of providing constraints on its composition, bathymetry, and dynamics. In light of the depth profile obtained by Mastrogiuseppe et al. (2014) and of a two-layer model, we find that the dielectric constant of the sea liquid is <1.8, and its loss tangent is < 3.6 +4.3-2.1 × 10-5. Both results point to a composition dominated by liquid methane rather than ethane. A high methane concentration suggests that Ligeia Mare is primarily fed by methane-rich precipitation and/or ethane has been removed from it (e.g., by crustal interaction). Our result on the dielectric constant of the seafloor is less constraining (< 2.9+0.9-0.9), but we favor a scenario where the floor of Ligeia Mare is covered by a sludge of compacted and possibly nitrile-rich organic material formed by the deposition of photochemical haze or by rain washing of the nearby shores. We use these results to produce a low-resolution bathymetry map of the sea. We also estimate the temperature variation of the bulk sea between February 2007 and July 2013 to be <2 K, which provides a constraint on its net evaporative cooling currently being explored in ocean circulation models. Lastly, we suggest a lag in the summer warming of the northern polar terrains.

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