Titan's cold case files - Outstanding questions after Cassini-Huygens

C. A. Nixon, R. D. Lorenz, R. K. Achterberg, A. Buch, P. Coll, R. N. Clark, R. Courtin, A. Hayes, L. Iess, R. E. Johnson, R. M.C. Lopes, M. Mastrogiuseppe, K. Mandt, D. G. Mitchell, F. Raulin, A. M. Rymer, H. Todd Smith, A. Solomonidou, C. Sotin, D. StrobelE. P. Turtle, V. Vuitton, R. A. West, R. V. Yelle

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

The entry of the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft into orbit around Saturn in July 2004 marked the start of a golden era in the exploration of Titan, Saturn's giant moon. During the Prime Mission (2004–2008), ground-breaking discoveries were made by the Cassini orbiter including the equatorial dune fields (flyby T3, 2005), northern lakes and seas (T16, 2006), and the large positive and negative ions (T16 & T18, 2006), to name a few. In 2005 the Huygens probe descended through Titan's atmosphere, taking the first close-up pictures of the surface, including large networks of dendritic channels leading to a dried-up seabed, and also obtaining detailed profiles of temperature and gas composition during the atmospheric descent. The discoveries continued through the Equinox Mission (2008–2010) and Solstice Mission (2010–2017) totaling 127 targeted flybys of Titan in all. Now at the end of the mission, we are able to look back on the high-level scientific questions from the start of the mission, and assess the progress that has been made towards answering these. At the same time, new scientific questions regarding Titan have emerged from the discoveries that have been made. In this paper we review a cross-section of important scientific questions that remain partially or completely unanswered, ranging from Titan's deep interior to the exosphere. Our intention is to help formulate the science goals for the next generation of planetary missions to Titan, and to stimulate new experimental, observational and theoretical investigations in the interim.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-72
Number of pages23
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Volume155
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics

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    Nixon, C. A., Lorenz, R. D., Achterberg, R. K., Buch, A., Coll, P., Clark, R. N., Courtin, R., Hayes, A., Iess, L., Johnson, R. E., Lopes, R. M. C., Mastrogiuseppe, M., Mandt, K., Mitchell, D. G., Raulin, F., Rymer, A. M., Todd Smith, H., Solomonidou, A., Sotin, C., ... Yelle, R. V. (2018). Titan's cold case files - Outstanding questions after Cassini-Huygens. Planetary and Space Science, 155, 50-72. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pss.2018.02.009