Spectroscopy, morphometry, and photoclinometry of Titan's dunefields from Cassini/VIMS

Jason W. Barnes, Robert H. Brown, Laurence Soderblom, Christophe Sotin, Stèphane Le Mouèlic, Sebastien Rodriguez, Ralf Jaumann, Ross A. Beyer, Bonnie J. Buratti, Karly Pitman, Kevin H. Baines, Roger Clark, Phil Nicholson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


Fine-resolution (500 m/pixel) Cassini Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) T20 observations of Titan resolve that moon's sand dunes. The spectral variability in some dune regions shows that there are sand-free interdune areas, wherein VIMS spectra reveal the exposed dune substrate. The interdunes from T20 are, variously, materials that correspond to the equatorial bright, 5-μm-bright, and dark blue spectral units. Our observations show that an enigmatic "dark red" spectral unit seen in T5 in fact represents a macroscopic mixture with 5-μm-bright material and dunes as its spectral endmembers. Looking more broadly, similar mixtures of varying amounts of dune and interdune units of varying composition can explain the spectral and albedo variability within the dark brown dune global spectral unit that is associated with dunes. The presence of interdunes indicates that Titan's dunefields are both mature and recently active. The spectrum of the dune endmember reveals the sand to be composed of less water ice than the rest of Titan; various organics are consistent with the dunes' measured reflectivity. We measure a mean dune spacing of 2.1 km, and find that the dunes are oriented on the average in an east-west direction, but angling up to 10° from parallel to the equator in specific cases. Where no interdunes are present, we determine the height of one set of dunes photoclinometrically to be between 30 and 70 m. These results pave the way for future exploration and interpretation of Titan's sand dunes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)400-414
Number of pages15
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2008


  • Geological processes
  • Satellites
  • Spectroscopy
  • Titan
  • atmospheres

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Spectroscopy, morphometry, and photoclinometry of Titan's dunefields from Cassini/VIMS'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this