Fluvial Features on Titan and Earth: Lessons from Planform Images in Low-resolution SAR

J. W. Miller, S. P.D. Birch, A. G. Hayes, M. J. Malaska, R. M.C. Lopes, A. M. Schoenfeld, P. M. Corlies, D. M. Burr, T. G. Farr, J. T. Perron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images of Titan's surface revealed river networks strikingly similar to those on Earth. However, Cassini SAR has low spatial resolution and image quality compared to data used to map channels on Earth, so traditional methods for characterizing river networks might not yield accurate results on Titan. We mapped terrestrial analog networks with varying resolutions and image qualities to determine which geomorphologic metrics were invariant with scale or resolution. We found that branching angle and drainage density varied significantly with image resolution, and we therefore expect the actual drainage density of Titan's channel networks to be significantly higher than the values calculated from Cassini data. Calculated network geometry did not change predictably with resolution and would therefore not be an ideal metric for interpreting Titan's channel networks. The measured channel width, basin length and width, and drainage area all behaved predictably as resolution varied, leading us to conclude that these metrics could be applied to Cassini data. We then mapped all observable fluvial features on Titan-excluding those in the highly incised labyrinth terrains-visible in the Cassini data set. In our new maps, we observe differences in basin shapes between Titan's polar and equatorial regions and dichotomies in the relative channel density between the northern and southern midlatitudes and poles of Titan: channels are concentrated at the poles and southern midlatitudes. These patterns may reflect differences in bedrock material and/or different climate histories 2021. The Author(s). Published by the American Astronomical Society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number142
JournalPlanetary Science Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Saturnian satellites (1427)
  • Titan (2186)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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