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Detection of structure in Titan's icy soil

Detection of structure in Titan's icy soil

A penetrometer was used by ESA's Huygens probe to characterise the sedimentary deposits of ice grains on Titan. Experiments conducted at The Open University in the UK and analysed with a numerical physically based impact model, developed at The Finnish Meteorological Institute, suggest that the deposits at the Huygens landing site consist of gravel-sized rather than sand-sized particles. This could have implications for understanding geological processes on Titan such as fluvial activity.

Penetrometers are important instruments for civil engineering activities and geoscientific investigations but are as yet underutilised. Empirical relations are often used for interpreting the data due to the complicated behaviour of soils when under stress. Understanding the in situ microstructure of soils and regoliths would benefit from applying a physically based model, such as developed in this work, to penetrometer data. For example physically based models are used to interpret measurements from micropenetrometers that are being developed to characterise snow grains and identify weak layers for avalanche forecasting.

More information:

Researcher Mark paton:

Paton, M. D., Green, S. F., Ball, A. J., Zarnecki, J. C., Hagermann, A., Detection of structure in asteroid analogue materials and Titan's regolith by a landing spacecraft, Advances in Space Research, 58, 415-437 (2016)


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