Release of volatiles from a possible cryovolcano from near-infrared imaging of Titan

C. Sotin, R. Jaumann, B. J. Buratti, R. H. Brown, R. N. Clark, L. A. Soderblom, K. H. Baines, G. Bellucci, J. P. Bibring, F. Capaccioni, P. Cerroni, M. Combes, A. Coradini, D. P. Cruikshank, P. Drossart, V. Formisano, Y. Langevin, D. L. Matson, T. B. McCord, R. M. NelsonP. D. Nicholson, B. Sicardy, S. Lemouelic, S. Rodriguez, K. Stephan, C. K. Scholz

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Abstract

Titan is the only satellite in our Solar System with a dense atmosphere. The surface pressure is 1.5 bar (ref. 1) and, similar to the Earth, N 2 is the main component of the atmosphere. Methane is the second most important component, but it is photodissociated on a timescale of 10 years (ref. 3). This short timescale has led to the suggestion that Titan may possess a surface or subsurface reservoir of hydrocarbons to replenish the atmosphere. Here we report near-infrared images of Titan obtained on 26 October 2004 by the Cassini spacecraft. The images show that a widespread methane ocean does not exist; subtle albedo variations instead suggest topographical variations, as would be expected for a more solid (perhaps icy) surface. We also find a circular structure ∼30 km in diameter that does not resemble any features seen on other icy satellites. We propose that the structure is a dome formed by upwelling icy plumes that release methane into Titan's atmosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)786-789
Number of pages4
JournalNature
Volume435
Issue number7043
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 9 2005

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Sotin, C., Jaumann, R., Buratti, B. J., Brown, R. H., Clark, R. N., Soderblom, L. A., Baines, K. H., Bellucci, G., Bibring, J. P., Capaccioni, F., Cerroni, P., Combes, M., Coradini, A., Cruikshank, D. P., Drossart, P., Formisano, V., Langevin, Y., Matson, D. L., McCord, T. B., ... Scholz, C. K. (2005). Release of volatiles from a possible cryovolcano from near-infrared imaging of Titan. Nature, 435(7043), 786-789. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature03596