Titan’s Rotational Light-Curve

Mark T. Lemmon, Erich Karkoschka, Martin Tomasko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Recent observations demonstrate that near-infrared spectroscopy can probe Titan's surface through its haze. In a 5-week period during September and October 1993 we observed Titan's methane windows at 1.1, 1.3, 1.6, and 2 μm. At 1.1 and 1.3 μm observations were consistent with observations in 1992 at the same phases reported by Lemmon et al. (1993, Icarus 103, 329-332). Our new observations indicate that Titan was brighter near eastern elongation than near western elongation by 23 ± 2% at 1.6 μn and 32 ± 3% at 2 μn. With almost daily observations at 2 μn during one orbit, we observed Titan to be dark near western elongation, to brighten as it approached eastern elongation, and to darken as it returned to western elongation. We determine that the observed light-curve is due to surface albedo variations and Titan's rotational period is 15.950 ± 0.025 days. By considering the work of other observers we constrain the rotational period to be 15.949 ± 0.006 days; this constraint is consistent with synchronous rotation. Models of Titan's surface reflectivity are inconsistent with the presence of a strong 2-μm water ice absorption feature and do not require the presence of any surface absorption features; however, we cannot rule out models of the surface as dirty water ice or silicates that have been suggested by others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-38
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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