Titan's native ocean revealed beneath some 45 km of ice by a Schumann-like resonance

Abstract : After five years of thorough analysis of data from the Huygens Probe that descended into Titan's atmosphere in January 2005, we report major findings inferred from measurements of low frequency waves and atmospheric conductivity. The data account for the observation of a Schumann-like resonance trapped within Titan's atmospheric cavity. On Earth, this phenomenon is triggered by lightning and was anticipated to be observed on Titan, as it provides a tool to reveal the presence of a ground conductive boundary to sustain the resonance of the cavity. The Huygens observations show that the major electric field component of the signal is horizontal, which is inconsistent with lightning sources. We interpret, however, the observed signal as a second spherical harmonic of Titan's cavity, triggered and sustained by strong electric currents induced in the ionosphere by Saturn's magnetospheric plasma flow. The present study describes the characteristics of such trapped modes that allow us to constrain the parameters of the cavity and to infer the presence of a conductive layer at 45 km (±15 km) below the surface. By comparison with the presence of subsurface conductive ocean in the Galilean icy satellites, we conclude that Titan should have pursued similar processes of internal dynamics. To date, this result represents the only evidence for a buried ocean in Titan.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - 2:06:43 PM
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Christian Béghin, Christophe Sotin, Michel Hamelin. Titan's native ocean revealed beneath some 45 km of ice by a Schumann-like resonance. Comptes Rendus Géoscience, Elsevier Masson, 2010, 342 (6), pp.425-433. ⟨10.1016/j.crte.2010.03.003⟩. ⟨hal-00486251⟩

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