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Fluvial erosion as a mechanism for crater modification on Titan

May 15, 2016

There are few identifiable impact craters on Titan, especially in the polar regions. One explanation for this observation is that the craters are being destroyed through fluvial processes, such as weathering, mass wasting, fluvial incision and deposition. In this work, we use a landscape evolution model to determine whether or not this is a viable mechanism for crater destruction on Titan. We find that fluvial degradation can modify craters to the point where they would be unrecognizable by an orbiting spacecraft such as Cassini, given enough time and a large enough erosion rate. A difference in the erosion rate between the equator and the poles of a factor of a few could explain the latitudinal variation in Titan’s crater population. Fluvial erosion also removes central peaks and fills in central pits, possibly explaining their infrequent occurrence in Titan craters. Although many craters on Titan appear to be modified by aeolian infilling, fluvial modification is necessary to explain the observed impact crater morphologies. Thus, it is an important secondary modification process even in Titan’s drier equatorial regions.

Publication Year 2016
Title Fluvial erosion as a mechanism for crater modification on Titan
DOI 10.1016/j.icarus.2015.07.022
Authors Catherine D. Neish, J. L. Molaro, J. M. Lora, A.D. Howard, Randolph L. Kirk, P. Schenk, V.J. Bray, R. D. Lorenz
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Icarus
Index ID 70191097
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Astrogeology Science Center