Surface-Atmosphere Interactions on Titan
The solar system’s second-largest moon, Saturn’s satellite Titan, possesses a thick atmosphere rich in organics beneath which lies a surface whose character remains hidden. While the atmosphere was explored in fair detail during the Voyager 1 flyby of Titan in 1980, information about the surface has been scanty but growing through a suite of ground-based and Earth orbital data spanning the 15 years since Voyager. Ultimately the joint U.S.-European Cassini-Huygens missions will (hopefully) reveal the true nature of the surface. Whatever that nature may be, the mass and energy exchange between the surface and atmosphere is likely to be complex, probably comparable to that of the Earth prior to the origin of life. Titan’s surface-atmosphere system may provide us with a laboratory for studying the evolution of organic-rich but abiotic planetary evolution (Lunine and McKay, 1995).
KeywordsAtmospheric Methane Small Crater Tidal Dissipation Solar Luminosity Huygens Probe
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