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  • 1. Plate Tectonics:Ice-Quake Mapping of Titan
    James Kuhn, Caralee Starling, Mikenna Smith
  • 2. Credentials
    Caralee Starling, Ph. D
    Doctorate of Geology, Post-Doctorate of Seismology
    Professor of Earth Sciences at Princeton University
    James Kuhn, Ph. D
    Doctorate of Aerospace Engineering
    NASA Head Aerospace Engineer on the Cassini mission and Huygen rover
    Mikenna Smith, Ph. D
    Doctorate of Analytical Chemistry
    NASA Analyst of extraterrestrial atmospheric compositions
  • 3. Background
    Earth’s Plate Tectonics:
    Promote high levels of global biodiversity
    Geological features create environmental complexity and stimulate speciation
    Affect global climate
    Recycle mineral and chemical compounds in sedimentary rock and release of greenhouse gases via volcanic eruption
    Aid in the generation of magnetic field
    Evacuate heat released by convection cells in the liquid iron core that originate from Earth’s rotation
  • 4. Background
    Geological surface features
    Appalachian-sized mountain chains, highest peak 6,600 feet
    Possible ice volcano SotraFacula
    95% nitrogen and 5% hydrocarbons
    Possibly replenished by volcanic eruption
    Surface liquid
    Liquid hydrocarbon rivers and lakes
    Possible subsurface ocean
    Theorized to exist 62 miles below surface, separating it from the core and allowing the crust to move
  • 5. SotraFacula
  • 6. Reflection from Titan Lake
  • 7. Mountain Chains
  • 8. Aims
    Find evidence for plate tectonics by looking for:
    Ridge movement around SotraFacula
    The placement and depth of possible ice-quakes
    Stratigraphy suggesting unconformity in the sediment
    Historical atmospheric composition (stability)
  • 9. Aim and Experiment I
    To determine if SotraFacula is on a divergent plate boundary
    Four rovers will be sent to Titan and situated around the theorized ice volcano, SotraFacula
    Rovers will be stationary and remote signal between each rover to determine if the distance between any of them increases over the span of the mission
  • 10. Aim and Experiment II
    To record the location and depth of possible ice-quakes
    Four rovers will be equipped with seismographs to record the theorized seismic activity resulting from ice-quakes to map out the plate boundaries
  • 11. Aim and Experiment III
    To search for evidence of geological disruption around SotraFacula by examining the stratigraphy of the drill cores
    The drill cores will be imaged to analyze the strata of ice layers. Angular unconformities will indicate plate tectonics
  • 12. Aim and Experiment IV
    To examine Titan’s historic atmospheric composition
    In addition, the rovers will be equipped with a gas chromatograph
    Ice-cores will be drilled around SotraFacula and air trapped in the ice-cores will be analyzed with the gas chromatograph to evaluate past atmospheric conditions
  • 13. Significance
    • Importance of plate tectonics on Earth
    • 14. Prerequisite for life
    Opportunity to look at other conditions of plate tectonics
    Titan is the best candidate for such plate tectonics in our solar system
  • 15. References
    Ward P, Brownlee D. The Surprising Importance of Plate Tectonics. In: Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe. New York: Copernicus Books. 2000. p.191-220.
    NASA [Internet]. Washington D.C.: Cassini Spacecraft Images Seas on Saturn’s Moon Titan; 2007 [cited April 2011]; [About 10 paragraphs]. Available from:
    NASA [Internet]. Washington D.C.: Raisin’ Mountains on Saturn’s Moon Titan; 2010 [cited April 2011]; [About 12 paragraphs]. Available from:
    NASA [Internet]. Washington D.C.: Surprise Hidden on Titan’s Smog: Circus-Like Clouds; 2011 [cited April 2011]; [About 33 paragraphs]. Available from:
    NASA [Internet]. Washington D.C.: NASA Confirms Liquid Lake on Saturn Moon; 2008 [cited April 2011]; [About 10 paragraphs]. Available from:
    NASA [Internet]. Washington D.C.: Cassini Spacecraft Finds Ocean May Exist Beneath Titan’s Crust; 2008 [cited April 2011]; [About 9 paragraphs]. Available from:
    NASA [Internet]. Washington D.C.: New Theory: Titan Shaped by Weathering, Not Ice Volcanoes; 2011 [cited April 2011]; [About 13 paragraphs]. Available from:
    NASA [Internet]. Washington D.C.: Saturn’s Moon Titan: Planet Wannabe; 2004 [cited April 2011]; [About 25 paragraphs]. Available from:
    Images retrieved from NASA
  • 16. Questions?
    Thank you for your time.