Titan's damp ground: Constraints on Titan surface thermal properties from the temperature evolution of the Huygens GCMS inlet

Lorenz, R. D.; Niemann, H. B.; Harpold, D. N.; Way, S. H. and Zarnecki, J. C. (2006). Titan's damp ground: Constraints on Titan surface thermal properties from the temperature evolution of the Huygens GCMS inlet. Meteoritics and Planetary Science, 41(11) pp. 1705–1714.

URL: http://meteoritics.org/

Abstract

A simple thermal model is developed to determine the temperature history of the inlet tube of the Huygens probe gas chromatograph mass spectrometer (GCMS) after its fortuitous emplacement on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan. The model parameters are adjusted to match the recorded temperature history of a nearby heater, taking into account heat losses by conduction to the rest of the probe and to Titan's cold atmosphere. The model suggests that after impact when forced convective cooling ceased, the inlet temperature rose from similar to 110 K to an asymptotic value of only similar to 145 K. This requires that the inlet was embedded in a surface that acted as an effective heat sink, most plausibly interpreted as wet or damp with liquid methane. The data appear inconsistent with a tar or dry, fine-grained surface, and the inlet was not warm enough to devolatilize methane hydrate.

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