Bathymetry and composition of Titan’s Ontario Lacus derived from Monte Carlo-based waveform inversion of Cassini RADAR altimetry data
Le Gall A
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Recently, the Cassini RADAR was used to sound hydrocarbon lakes and seas on Saturn’s moon Titan. Since the initial discovery of echoes from the seabed of Ligeia Mare, the second largest liquid body on Titan, a dedicated radar processing chain has been developed to retrieve liquid depth and microwave absorptivity information from RADAR altimetry of Titan’s lakes and seas. Herein, we apply this processing chain to altimetry data acquired over southern Ontario Lacus during Titan fly-by T49 in December 2008. The new signal processing chain adopts super resolution techniques and dedicated taper functions to reveal the presence of reflection from Ontario’s lakebed. Unfortunately, the extracted waveforms from T49 are often distorted due to signal saturation, owing to the extraordinarily strong specular reflections from the smooth lake surface. This distortion is a function of the saturation level and can introduce artifacts, such as signal precursors, which complicate data interpretation. We use a radar altimetry simulator to retrieve information from the saturated bursts and determine the liquid depth and loss tangent of Ontario Lacus. Received waveforms are represented using a two-layer model, where Cassini raw radar data are simulated in order to reproduce the effects of receiver saturation. A Monte Carlo based approach along with a simulated waveform look-up table is used to retrieve parameters that are given as inputs to a parametric model which constrains radio absorption of Ontario Lacus and retrieves information about the dielectric properties of the liquid. We retrieve a maximum depth of 50 m along the radar transect and a best-fit specific attenuation of the liquid equal to 0.2 ±0.09 dB m −1 that, when converted into loss tangent, gives tan δ= 7 ±3 ×10 −5 . When combined with laboratory measured cryogenic liquid alkane dielectric properties and the variable solubility of nitrogen in ethane-methane mixtures, the best-fit loss tangent is consistent with a ternary mixture of 51% methane, 38% ethane and 11% nitrogen by volume.