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Nature. 1995 Mar 16;374(6519):238-40.

Tidal effects of disconnected hydrocarbon seas on Titan.

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Department of Astronomy, University of Florida, Gainesville 32611-2055.


Thermodynamic and photochemical arguments suggest that Titan, the largest satellite of Saturn, has a deep ocean of liquid hydrocarbons. At visible wavelengths, Titan's surface is obscured by a thick stratospheric haze, but radar observations have revealed large regions of high surface reflectivity that are inconsistent with a global hydrocarbon ocean. Titan's surface has also been imaged at infrared wavelengths, and the highest-resolution data (obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope) show clear variations in surface albedo and/or topography. The natural interpretation of these observations is that Titan, like the Earth, has continents and oceans. But Titan's high orbital eccentricity poses a problem for this interpretation, as the effects of oceanic tidal friction would have circularized Titan's orbit for most configurations of oceans and continents. Here we argue that a more realistic topography, in which liquid hydrocarbons are confined to a number of disconnected seas or crater lakes, may satisfy both the dynamical and observational constraints.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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