Thread poster: Phil Hand
| | Phil Hand
Local time: 11:11
Chinese to English
Higher-than-predicted saltation threshold wind speeds on Titan
Titan, the largest satellite of Saturn, exhibits extensive aeolian, that is, wind-formed, dunes1, 2, features previously identified exclusively on Earth, Mars and Venus. Wind tunnel data collected under ambient and planetary-analogue conditions inform our models of aeolian processes on the terrestrial planets3, 4. However, the accuracy of these widely used formulations in predicting the threshold wind speeds required to move sand by saltation, or by short bounces, has not been tested under conditions relevant for non-terrestrial planets. Here we derive saltation threshold wind speeds under the thick-atmosphere, low-gravity and low-sediment-density conditions on Titan, using a high-pressure wind tunnel5 refurbished to simulate the appropriate kinematic viscosity for the near-surface atmosphere of Titan. The experimentally derived saltation threshold wind speeds are higher than those predicted by models based on terrestrial-analogue experiments6, 7, indicating the limitations of these models for such extreme conditions. The models can be reconciled with the experimental results by inclusion of the extremely low ratio of particle density to fluid density8 on Titan. Whereas the density ratio term enables accurate modelling of aeolian entrainment in thick atmospheres, such as those inferred for some extrasolar planets, our results also indicate that for environments with high density ratios, such as in jets on icy satellites or in tenuous atmospheres or exospheres, the correction for low-density-ratio conditions is not required.
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