Date of Graduation

12-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Space & Planetary Sciences (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Graduate School

Advisor

Vincent F. Chevrier

Committee Member

Daniel Kennefick

Second Committee Member

John Dixon

Third Committee Member

Jason Tullis

Fourth Committee Member

Mack Ivey

Fifth Committee Member

Michael Lieber

Abstract

The surface liquids and lake regions of Titan are studied utilizing three unique techniques, the results of which are reported in this dissertation. The development of a facility to simulate the surface conditions of Titan, and to conduct experiments on samples within that facility, brings an understanding of Titan's surface not possible through observation and modeling alone. The properties of this facility are presented, including conceptual methodology, design, implementation, performance, and experimental results. The facility, the main component of which is a simulation chamber, allows for Titan temperatures of 90 - 94 K and a 1.5 bar N2 atmosphere. The sample cryogenic liquids or ice undergoing experimentation are condensed within the chamber itself. During experiments, evaporation rates are determined by directly measuring mass, while vapor concentrations are determined using a gas chromatograph fitted with a flame ionization detector. The infrared (IR) spectra of liquid and ice constituents are analyzed with a Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy spectrometer (FTIR) via a fiber optic probe, and all pertinent data is logged in a computer.

With the Cassini spacecraft currently orbiting Saturn and conducting periodic close flybys of Titan, a unique opportunity exists to search for change in lake size and shorelines in the northern lake region due to the temporally spaced overlapping data coverage. The results of a Geographic Information System (GIS) approach to monitoring Titan's northern lakes for change found no discernible change in northern lake size or shorelines over a 32 month period. GIS analysis of an estuary of Kraken Mare, for synthetic aperture radar (SAR) swaths taken 47 days apart, indicate a transient feature, with implications for short-term dynamic processes.

A geological characterization of Ligeia Mare, the second largest sea on Titan, was performed utilizing Cassini SAR swaths. SAR swaths were mosaicked, and the mosaic interpreted so as to identify the principle components of the surrounding terrain. Interpretations related to landscape forming processes were formulated, measurements of drainage channel directions and the areal extent of main channels and tributaries are reported, and the sediment volume that has flowed into Ligeia through time is estimated.

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