Smoothness of Titan's Ontario Lacus: Constraints from Cassini RADAR specular reflection data
Article first published online: 19 AUG 2009
Copyright 2009 by the American Geophysical Union.
Geophysical Research Letters
Volume 36, Issue 16, August 2009
How to Cite
2009), Smoothness of Titan's Ontario Lacus: Constraints from Cassini RADAR specular reflection data, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L16201, doi:10.1029/2009GL039588., , and (
- Issue published online: 19 AUG 2009
- Article first published online: 19 AUG 2009
- Manuscript Accepted: 21 JUL 2009
- Manuscript Revised: 14 JUL 2009
- Manuscript Received: 17 JUN 2009
 Cassini RADAR altimetry data collected on the 49th flyby of Titan (2008 December 21) over Ontario Lacus in Titan's south polar region provides strong evidence for an extremely smooth surface, with less than 3 mm rms surface height variation over the 100m-wide Fresnel zone. Histograms of the raw radar echoes imply a mirror-like specular reflection of the transmitted signal. Such an echo is possible only if the surface is extremely flat relative to our 2.2-cm wavelength. The 3 mm upper bound follows from analyzing the strength of the specular return, which declines exponentially with increasing surface height variance. In this experiment, the strength of the echo was larger than expected, severely saturating the receiver. We developed a method to partially correct the echoes for the distortion incurred. While the implied mm-scale smoothness is not proof that the surface is liquid, it is unlikely that a solid surface is so smooth.