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The root of anomalously specular reflections from solid surfaces on Saturn’s moon Titan

Abstract : Saturn’s moon Titan has a methane cycle with clouds, rain, rivers, lakes, and seas; it is the only world known to presently have a volatile cycle akin to Earth’s tropospheric water cycle. Anomalously specular radar reflections (ASRR) from Titan’s tropical region were observed with the Arecibo Observatory (AO) and Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and interpreted as evidence for liquid surfaces. The Cassini spacecraft discovered lakes/seas on Titan, however, it did not observe lakes/seas at the AO/GBT anomalously specular locations. A satisfactory explanation for the ASRR has been elusive for more than a decade. Here we show that the ASRR originate from one terrain unit, likely paleolakes/paleoseas. Titan observations provide ground-truth in the search for oceans on exoearths and an important lesson is that identifying liquid surfaces by specular reflections requires a stringent definition of specular; we propose a definition for this purpose.
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Jason D. Hofgartner, Alexander G. Hayes, Donald B. Campbell, Jonathan I. Lunine, Gregory J. Black, et al.. The root of anomalously specular reflections from solid surfaces on Saturn’s moon Titan. Nature Communications, Nature Publishing Group, 2020, 11, pp.2829. ⟨10.1038/s41467-020-16663-1⟩. ⟨insu-02876602⟩

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