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Conference Papers Year : 2017

Compositional Variations of Titan's Impact Craters Indicates Active Surface Erosion


Titan’s crust is assumed to be mostly water-ice. However, the surface composition is not well constrained due to its thick atmosphere. Based on infrared and radiometry data, the surface appears enriched in organics, with only few areas showing evidence of exposed water-ice. Regions of water-ice enrichment include the rims and ejecta blankets of impact craters. This study utilizes these geologic features to examine compositional variations across Titan’s surface, and their subsequent modification due to erosional processes.Sixteen craters and their ejecta blankets were mapped on a Cassini RADAR mosaic. These features were selected because they are some of the best preserved craters on Titan. Composition was inferred from Cassini’s Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) and 2-cm emissivity data from the Cassini radiometer. With VIMS, different compositional units were inferred from their reflectivity at specific wavelengths. With the emissivity data, high values suggest more organic-rich material, while lower values indicate strong volume scattering. Areas with low emissivity have been interpreted to be water-ice rich, as water-ice is a favorable medium for volume scattering.Results show fresher, well-preserved craters in the dunes regions have a low emissivity indicative of water-ice, and a VIMS spectrum consistent with an unknown material, possibly a mixture of water-ice and organics. As these craters erode over time, the VIMS spectra remain the same but the emissivity increases. Well-preserved craters in the mid-latitude plains show VIMS spectra and emissivity values consistent with water-ice. As these plain craters degrade, the VIMS spectra remain the same, but the emissivity increases. The differing VIMS signatures suggest more mixing with organics during the cratering event in the organic-rich dunes than the plains. The changes in emissivity over time are consistent with organic infilling of subsurface fractures in both regions, with limited surficial alteration. These results support the idea that compositional variations in Titan’s impact craters are related primarily to erosion and infilling, and to a lesser extent, local variations in the overlying organic material of the pre-impact substrate.
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insu-01665848 , version 1 (17-12-2017)



Alyssa Werynski, Catherine Neish, Alice Le Gall, Michael A. Janssen. Compositional Variations of Titan's Impact Craters Indicates Active Surface Erosion. 49th Annual Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting, Oct 2017, Provo, United States. ⟨insu-01665848⟩
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