Icy Worlds

New insights on Titan's interior from its obliquity

By Keith Cowing
March 11, 2014
Filed under
New insights on Titan's interior from its obliquity

We constructed a 6-degrees of freedom rotational model of Titan as a 3-layer body consisting of a rigid core, a fluid global ocean, and a floating ice shell.

The ice shell exhibits partially-compensated lateral thickness variations in order to simultaneously match the observed degree-two gravity and shape coefficients. The rotational dynamics are affected by the gravitational torque of Saturn, the gravitational coupling between the inner core and the shell, and the pressure coupling at the fluid-solid boundaries. Between 10 and 13% of our model Titans have an obliquity (due to a resonance with the 29.5-year periodic annual forcing) that is consistent with the observed value.

The shells of the successful models have a mean thickness of 130 to 140 km, and an ocean of ~250 km thickness. Our simulations of the obliquity evolution show that the Cassini obliquity measurement is an instantaneous one, and does not represent a mean value. Future measurements of the time derivative of the obliquity would help to refine the interior models. We expect in particular a variation of roughly 7 arcmin over the duration of the Cassini mission.

Benoit Noyelles, Francis Nimmo (Submitted on 10 Mar 2014)

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

Cite as: arXiv:1403.2276 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1403.2276v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history From: Benoit Noyelles [v1] Mon, 10 Mar 2014 15:57:53 GMT (715kb)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻