Arecibo radar observations of Rhea, Dione, Tethys, and Enceladus

G. J. Black, D. B. Campbell, L. M. Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


We have measured the bulk radar reflectance properties of the mid-size saturnian satellites Rhea, Dione, Tethys, and Enceladus with the Arecibo Observatory's 13 cm wavelength radar system during the 2004 through 2007 oppositions of the Saturn system. Comparing to the better studied icy Galilean satellites, we find that the total reflectivities of Rhea and Tethys are most similar to Ganymede while Dione is most similar to Callisto. Enceladus' reflectivity falls between those of Ganymede and Europa. The mean circular polarization ratios of the saturnian satellites range from ∼0.8 to 1.2, and are on average lower than those of the icy Galilean satellites at this wavelength although still larger than expected for single reflections off the surface. The ratio for the trailing hemisphere of Enceladus may be the exception with a value ≃0.56. The 13 cm wavelength radar albedos and polarization ratios may be systematically lower than similar results from the Cassini orbiter's RADAR instrument at 2.2 cm wavelength [Ostro, S.J., and 19 colleagues, 2006. Icarus 183, 479-490]. Overall, these reflectivities and polarization properties, together with the shapes of the echo spectra, suggest subsurface multiple scattering to be the dominant reflection mechanism although operating less efficiently than on the large icy moons of Jupiter. All these saturnian moons and icy jovian moons are atmosphere-less, low temperature water ice surfaces, and any differences in radar properties may be indicative of differences in composition or the effects of various processes that modify the regolith structure. The degree of variation in radar properties with wavelength on each satellite may constrain the thickness and efficiency of the scattering layer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)702-711
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 15 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Enceladus
  • Radar observations
  • Saturn
  • satellites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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