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Titan's lack of impact craters

  1. Feb 9, 2012 #1
    I've been looking around for information on Saturn's moon, Titan, to present to my class. One thing that wikipedia seems to say about the moon is that it has distinctly fewer impact craters than other moons of its size and position in the solar system. Supposedly, this is attributed to some combination of atmospheric shielding and the idea that it must have a relatively young surface.

    It doesn't seem to me that we can possibly conclude that the surface of Titan is young. On Earth, we seem to have relatively few impact craters. In part, this is due to atmospheric shielding, but the other major factor (at least, in my mind--and this is what I'm after) is erosion. Am I missing something? Couldn't Titan, which has a dense atmosphere (and so, its wind would have significant force) and which supposedly has a fluid cycle on its surface and in its atmosphere, have a lack of impact craters simply because they've been disintegrated by powerful erosion?

    I'm hoping to start a conversation on this. I don't really know if my reasoning is flawed, based on incorrect or incomplete information or what.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 9, 2012 #2
    You are right, erosion does contribute significantly to Titan's topography. That's what makes it's surface young. The term "young" in geology simply means that the surface has been subjected to "recent erosion" via impact cratering, wind, rain, volcanic flows, etcetera.

    Here are some suggested reasons for fewer visible signs of crater-impacts on Titan.

    1. Erosion via liquid methane rain and the flows.
    2. Wind, and wind-driven sand [BTW: Titan's dunes are made of solid hydrocarbons that that turn to grains after raining down from the atmosphere..]
    3. Cryovolcanism? [as yet unconfirmed]
    4. Coverage of craters by wind-driven sand dunes.
    5. Thick atmosphere shielding the surface from larger impacts.

    Also, because the surface was detected by the Cassini Orbiter as shifting nineteen miles in three years, Titan's crust is thought to be resting on liquid. The swift shifting is said to be aided by the wind-pressure against Titan's mountains much as a sail on a ship.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  4. Feb 9, 2012 #3


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    and do forget the other major contributer on earth for a young surface is plate tectonics

  5. Feb 9, 2012 #4
    Not just for earth but it is also evident on Titan.


    I find Titan far more interesting than Mars.
  6. Mar 1, 2012 #5
    Me too! And more interesting than Europa actually even though it's interesting also.
  7. Mar 6, 2012 #6
    Would you say it's possible that another reason for the lack of impact craters on Titan might be Saturn's mass pulling meteors and asteroids into its gravity well?

    I suppose that effect would be even more pronounced with Jupiter if this were the case.
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