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How does a milkshake melt ice cubes ? Exploring the destabilization of clathrates by cryolava

Presentation #216.08D in the session Titan III: Surface and Interior (Oral Presentation)

Published onOct 23, 2023
How does a milkshake melt ice cubes ? Exploring the destabilization of clathrates by cryolava

Titan, the main satellite of Saturn, is a unique object in the solar system. Over the last few decades, the Cassini-Huygens mission has made some major discoveries but has also left many questions unanswered. For instance, the interactions between the moon’s interior and its surface, or atmosphere, remain poorly understood despite their many important physical and astrobiological implications.

Despite the glacial environment, liquid water may have flowed episodically onto Titan’s surface in the form of “cryolava”, produced either by possible cryovolcanic activity or by asteroid impact. Numerical simulation of such flows of relatively hot materials may enable comparison with geological and morphological features already imaged or the prediction of consequences that may be observed by future missions.

More specifically, we have modeled cryolava flow on Titan as a function of certain thermal and rheological assumptions concerning ice/liquid water mixtures. The first simulations were dedicated to the spatial extension of cryolava flow and focused on the coupling between hydrodynamics and thermodynamics. The second part of our simulations focused on the interactions between the “hot” cryolava and the ground substrate. We studied the extent to which cryolava can destabilize a surface layer of methane clathrate hydrates (MCH). We also calculated the freezing time scale of cryolava trapped in possible surface crevasses.

Our work is naturally in line with the scientific goals of the Dragonfly mission, which will explore the Selk crater region in the 2030s. Our research is also relevant for suspected cryovolcanism on the icy Galilean moons, which will be explored by the JUICE and Europa Clipper missions.

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