The University of Arizona

"Comet-tail" ejecta streaks: A predicted cratering landform unique to Titan



A model for an impact ejecta landform peculiar to Saturns moon Titan is presented. Expansion of the ejecta plume from moderate-sized craters is constrained by Titans thick atmosphere. Much of the plume is collimated along the incoming bolides trajectory, as was observed for plumes from impacts on Jupiter of P/Shoemaker-Levy-9, but is retained as a linear, diagonal ejecta cloud, unlike on Venus where the plume blows out. On Titan, the blowout is suppressed because the vertically-extended atmosphere requires a long wake to reach the vacuum of space, and the modest impact velocities mean plume expansion along the wake is slow enough to allow the wake to close off. Beyond the immediate ejecta blanket around the crater, distal ejecta is released into the atmosphere from an oblique line source: this material is winnowed by the zonal wind field to form streaks, with coarse radar-bright particles transported less far than fine radar-dark material. Thus, the ejecta form two distinct streaks faintly reminiscent of dual comet tails, a sharply W-E radar-dark one, and a less swept and sometimes comma-shaped radar-bright one.


Impact ejecta;Radar;Titan

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