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The effect of gravitational and pressure torques on Titan's length-of-day variations
Van Hoolst, T.; Rambaux, N; Karatekin, O.; Baland, R.-M. (2009). The effect of gravitational and pressure torques on Titan's length-of-day variations. Icarus 200(1): 256-264.
In: Icarus. Elsevier. ISSN 0019-1035, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 
    VLIZ: Open Repository 295674 [ OMA ]

Author keywords
    Titan; Interiors; Rotational dynamics; Ices

Authors  Top 
  • Van Hoolst, T., more
  • Rambaux, N
  • Karatekin, O., more
  • Baland, R.-M., more

    Cassini radar observations show that Titan's spin is slightly faster than synchronous spin. Angular momentum exchange between Titan's surface and the atmosphere over seasonal time scales corresponding to Saturn's orbital period of 29.5 year is the most likely cause of the observed non-synchronous rotation. We study the effect of Saturn's gravitational torque and torques between internal layers on the length-of-day (LOD) variations driven by the atmosphere. Because static tides deform Titan into an ellipsoid with the long axis approximately in the direction to Saturn. non-zero gravitational and pressure torques exist that can change the rotation rate of Titan. For the torque calculation, we estimate the flattening of Titan and its interior layers under the assumption of hydrostatic equilibrium. The gravitational forcing by Saturn, due to misalignment of the long axis of Titan with the line joining the mass centers of Titan and Saturn, reduces the LOD variations with respect to those for a spherical Titan by an order of magnitude. Internal gravitational and pressure coupling between the ice shell and the interior beneath a putative ocean tends to reduce any differential rotation between shell and interior and reduces further the LOD variations by a few times. For the current estimate of the atmospheric torque, we obtain LOD variations of a hydrostatic Titan that are more than 100 times smaller than the observations indicate when Titan has no ocean as well as when a subsurface ocean exists. Moreover, Saturn's torque causes the rotation to be slower than synchronous in contrast to the Cassini observations. The calculated LOD variations could be increased if the atmospheric torque is larger than predicted and or if fast viscous relaxation of the ice shell could reduce the gravitational coupling, but it remains to be studied if a two order of magnitude increase is possible and if these effects can explain the phase difference of the predicted rotation variations. Alternatively, the large differences with the observations may suggest that non-hydrostatic effects in Titan are important. In particular, we show that the amplitude and phase of the calculated rotation variations are similar to the observed values if non-hydrostatic effects could strongly reduce the equatorial flattening of the ice shell above an internal ocean.

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