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An asymmetric distribution of lakes on Titan as a possible consequence of orbital forcing

Aharonson, O. and Hayes, A. G. and Lunine, J. I. and Lorenz, R. D. and Allison, M. D. and Elachi, C. (2009) An asymmetric distribution of lakes on Titan as a possible consequence of orbital forcing. Nature Geoscience, 2 (12). pp. 851-854. ISSN 1752-0894.

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A set of lakes filled or partially filled with liquid hydrocarbon and empty lake basins have been discovered in the high latitudes of Saturn's moon Titan. These features were mapped by the radar instrument on the Cassini orbiter. Here we quantify the distribution of the lakes and basins, and show a pronounced hemispheric asymmetry in their occurrence. Whereas significant fractions of the northern high latitudes are covered by filled and empty lakes, the same latitudes in the southern hemisphere are largely devoid of such features. We propose that in addition to known seasonal changes, the observed difference in lake distribution may be caused by an asymmetry in the seasons on Titan that results from the eccentricity of Saturn's orbit around the Sun. We suggest that the consequent hemispheric difference in the balance between evaporation and precipitation could lead to an accumulation of lakes in one of Titan's hemispheres. This effect would be modulated by, and reverse with, dynamical variations in the orbit. We propose that much like in the Earth's glacial cycles, the resulting vigorous hydrologic cycle has a period of tens of thousands of years and leads to active geologic surface modification in the polar latitudes.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription
Aharonson, O.0000-0001-9930-2495
Lunine, J. I.0000-0003-2279-4131
Lorenz, R. D.0000-0001-8528-4644
Additional Information:© 2009 Macmillan Publishers Limited. Published online: 29 November 2009. We would like to thank E. Schaller, M. Brown, M. Richardson, C. Newman, T. Schneider and K. Lewis for helpful discussions. This work was partially supported by the Cassini Project. O.A. would like to thank R. Sari, Y. Erel and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, for hosting him while carrying out this work. Author contributions: O.A., A.G.H., J.I.L. and R.D.L. contributed data analysis and development of the hypothesis; M.D.A. and A.G.H. carried out the computation of the orbital elements; C.E. is the Cassini Radar instrument principal investigator.
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Issue or Number:12
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20091221-090810446
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:17008
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:06 Jan 2010 00:41
Last Modified:09 Mar 2020 13:19

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