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G.J. Black (NRAO), D.B. Campbell (Cornell/NAIC), L.M. Carter (Cornell), S.J. Ostro (JPL)
We have obtained echoes from the bright, trailing hemisphere of Iapetus using the Arecibo Observatory's 13-cm radar system on three dates in January 2002. A circularly polarized signal was transmitted and an echo in the opposite circular (OC) sense to that transmitted was clearly received along with a much weaker detection of echo power in the same circular (SC) sense. Prior to this experiment, one expectation may have been that the radar scattering properties of Iapetus may behave like the similar atmosphere-less, icy surfaces of the Galilean satellites which, due to an efficient multiple scattering mechanism, are strong backscatterers with SC reflections stronger than their OC reflections. Instead we find that Iapetus' radar cross section and polarization properties are very different from those of the icy Galilean satellites, and more reminiscent of less efficient and less exotic scattering mechanisms such as dominate the echoes from inner Solar System targets. Thus these observations indicate that there is a significant difference between the surface properties of Iapetus and the icy Galileans despite their overall classification as low temperature, water ice surfaces. A plausible explanation for Iapetus' inefficient scattering is that contaminants in the water ice increase the absorption of the signal and suppress any multiple scattering. Likely contaminants on Iapetus are ammonia and the dark material from Cassini Regio embedded below the surface. Proposed observations will seek to measure Iapetus' radar scattering law and to detect the dark, leading side which was not targeted during this observing session.
The Arecibo Observatory is part of the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, which is operated by Cornell University under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.
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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 34, #3< br> © 2002. The American Astronomical Soceity.