Deep and methane-rich lakes on Titan


Link to Full Text

Download Full Text

Publication Date

January 2019


Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, hosts liquid hydrocarbon lakes and seas on its surface. During the last close encounter with Titan (22 April 2017), the Cassini spacecraft used its RADAR as a sounder to probe the depth of several lakes in the north polar terrain. This was the first time that Titan’s lakes, as opposed to its seas, have been viewed in a sounding configuration. Here, we show that these lakes can exceed 100 m depth and their transparency at the 2.17 cm radar wavelength indicates that they have a methane-dominated composition. This composition differs significantly from that of Ontario Lacus, the only major lake in Titan’s southern hemisphere, which is more ethane rich. If the methane-rich north polar lakes, perched hundreds of metres above the major seas, are formed by a karstic-type process, then they may drain by subsurface flow at rates between 0.001 and 1 m yr−1 (Titan year). Subsurface reservoirs and flows therefore may be an important element of the Titan geochemical system.


Astronomy And Planetary Science, Geochemistry, Geomorphology, Planetary Science

Document Type



Nature Astronomy, Vol. 3 (2019).