Cassini RADAR altimetry data collected on the 49th flyby of Titan (2008 December 21) over Ontario Lacus in Titan's south polar region provides strong evidence for an extremely smooth surface, with less than 3 mm rms surface height variation over the 100m-wide Fresnel zone. Histograms of the raw radar echoes imply a mirror-like specular reflection of the transmitted signal. Such an echo is possible only if the surface is extremely flat relative to our 2.2-cm wavelength. The 3 mm upper bound follows from analyzing the strength of the specular return, which declines exponentially with increasing surface height variance. In this experiment, the strength of the echo was larger than expected, severely saturating the receiver. We developed a method to partially correct the echoes for the distortion incurred. While the implied mm-scale smoothness is not proof that the surface is liquid, it is unlikely that a solid surface is so smooth.
Geophysical Research Letters
- Pub Date:
- August 2009
- Planetary Sciences: Solar System Objects: Titan;
- Planetary Sciences: Solid Surface Planets: Surface materials and properties;
- Radio Science: Radio oceanography (1222);
- Electromagnetics: Scattering and diffraction