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Abstract

Analogous to Earth's water cycle, Titan's methane-based hydrologic cycle supports standing bodies of liquid and drives processes that result in common morphologic features including dunes, channels, lakes, and seas. Like lakes on Earth and early Mars, Titan's lakes and seas preserve a record of its climate and surface evolution. Unlike on Earth, the volume of liquid exposed on Titan's surface is only a small fraction of the atmospheric reservoir. The volume and bulk composition of the seas can constrain the age and nature of atmospheric methane, as well as its interaction with surface reservoirs. Similarly, the morphology of lacustrine basins chronicles the history of the polar landscape over multiple temporal and spatial scales. The distribution of trace species, such as noble gases and higher-order hydrocarbons and nitriles, can address Titan's origin and the potential for both prebiotic and biotic processes. Accordingly, Titan's lakes and seas represent a compelling target for exploration.

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2016-06-29
2024-04-24
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