The Open UniversitySkip to content

Physical properties of Titan's surface at the Huygens landing site from the Surface Science Package Acoustic Properties sensor (API-S)

Towner, M.C.; Garry, J.R.C.; Lorenz, R.D.; Hagermann, A.; Hathi, B.; Svedhem, H.; Clark, B.C.; Leese, M.R. and Zarnecki, J.C. (2006). Physical properties of Titan's surface at the Huygens landing site from the Surface Science Package Acoustic Properties sensor (API-S). Icarus, 185(2) pp. 457–465.

DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link:
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


We present the results from the first sonar to be deployed outside of Earth, and the first active acoustic instrument on Titan, onboard the Huygens probe, and the implications of its data for the geomorphology and characteristics of the Huygens landing site. Signals were recorded from 90 m downwards until impact, with a maximum sensor footprint diameter at the ground of 39.2 m. Probe impact speed was measured to be 4.67 m s(-1). Derivation of terrain topography in a transect beneath the probe may indicate a ridge-trough terrain with an amplitude of about 1 m and a wavelength of about 10 m, although a flat surface is also consistent with the results. Modelling of the returned signal indicates that the surface acoustic properties at the landing site must be specular in nature, which may have two possible (not incompatible) causes-the surface may consist of sorted interlocking grains, smooth on the centimetre scale, which would imply either fluvial sorting or the infill of small particles interstitial to the larger particles (similar to a terrestrial playa). Alternatively, specularity may indicate the presence of methane as an interstitial liquid or as very small pools. Due to mission constraints, tens of metres around the landing site were not well-imaged by Huygens' cameras except for the narrow azimuth observed after impact (the camera did not look straight down, and was not in imaging mode during the last few hundred metres of descent). Thus the data presented are among the few direct observations of the landing site surroundings. (c) 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Item Type: Journal Article
ISSN: 0019-1035
Keywords: descent; probe; atmosphere; sediments; winds; model
Academic Unit/Department: Science > Physical Sciences
Interdisciplinary Research Centre: Centre for Earth, Planetary, Space and Astronomical Research (CEPSAR)
Item ID: 6776
Depositing User: Astrid Peterkin
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2007
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2016 16:27
Share this page:


Scopus Citations

▼ Automated document suggestions from open access sources

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   + 44 (0)870 333 4340