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Texture and composition of Titan's equatorial sand seas inferred from Cassini SAR data: Implications for aeolian transport and dune morphodynamics

Abstract : The texture, composition, and morphology of dunes observed in the equatorial regions of Titan may reflect present and/or past climatic conditions. Determining the physio‐chemical properties and the morphodynamics of Titan's dunes is therefore essential to understanding of the climatic and geological history of the largest moon of Saturn. We quantitatively derived average surface properties of dune and interdune areas (texture, composition) from modeling of the microwave backscattered signal and Monte‐Carlo inversion of the despeckled Cassini/SAR data over Titan's three largest sand seas: Belet, Shangri‐La and Fensal. We present the first analysis of the backscatter functions extracted from despeckled SAR images that cover such a large range in incidence angles, including data from the beginning of the Cassini mission up to its Grand Finale. We show that dunes and interdunes have significantly different physical properties. Dunes are found to be more microwave absorbent than interdunes. Additionally, potential secondary bedforms, such as ripples and avalanches, may have been detected, providing potential evidence for currently active dunes and sediment transport. Our modelling shows that the interdunes have multi‐scale roughnesses with higher dielectric constants than the dunes which have a low dielectric constant consistent with organic sand. The radar brightness of the interdunes can be explained by the presence of a shallow layer of significantly larger organic grains, possibly non‐mobilized by the winds. Together, our findings suggest that Titan's sand seas evolve under the current multi‐directional wind regimes with dunes that elongate with their crests aligned in the residual drift direction.
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Antoine Lucas, Sébastien Rodriguez, Florentin Lemonnier, Alice Le Gall, Shannon Mackenzie, et al.. Texture and composition of Titan's equatorial sand seas inferred from Cassini SAR data: Implications for aeolian transport and dune morphodynamics. Journal of Geophysical Research. Planets, Wiley-Blackwell, 2019, 124 (11), pp.3140-3163. ⟨10.1029/2019JE005965⟩. ⟨insu-02320751⟩

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