Fluvial features on Titan: Insights from morphology and modeling
Devon M. Burr et al., Earth and Planetary Sciences Dept., University of Tennessee, 1412 Circle Drive, Knoxville TN 37996-1410, USA. Posted online 21 November 2012; http://dx.doi.org/10.1130/B30612.1.
At a distance of 10AU from the Sun, Titan, the largest satellite of Saturn, is a cold, frozen echo of an abiotic Earth. Like Earth, Titan has a thick, nitrogen-rich atmosphere that actively cycles volatiles, resulting in a wide range of fluvial morphologies. Unlike on Earth, the materials that formed these Titan features consist of flowing liquid hydrocarbons transporting water ice or organic sediments. Prior first-order modeling shows the similarity of fluvial erosion and transport processes on the two bodies, despite such disparate materials and conditions, enabling these fluvial features to be understood through terrestrial analogy and modeling. In performing such work, Devon Burr and colleagues conclude that network patterns and reach-scale morphologies imply a range of terrestrial-style influences on channelized flow. Inter-comparison of data from the Cassini-Huygens mission implies that dissection of Titan uplands covers an order of magnitude more area than previously estimated. With appropriate parameters, terrestrial hydraulic equations are applicable to flow on Titan for turbulent conditions and rough boundaries. The resultant sediment movement and bedform development should occur at lower bed shear stress. Overall, observations show that Titan, like Earth, is a world pervasively influenced by fluvial processes, for which appropriate terrestrial
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