36th DPS Meeting, 8-12 November 2004
Session 24 Icy Satellites
Oral, Wednesday, November 10, 2004, 1:30-3:00pm, Lewis

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[24.04] Rhea's Surface: Ice Properties Measured by Radar.

G. Black (Univ. of Virginia), D. Campbell (Cornell Univ.)

We obtained echoes from the leading and trailing hemispheres of Rhea in January 2004 using the Arecibo Observatory's 13-cm radar system. The transmitted signal was circularly polarized and strong echoes were received in both the opposite circular (OC) sense to that transmitted and the same circular (SC) sense. Rhea's mean total cross section normalized by projected area is 1.32±0.10 and the mean circular polarization ratio, the ratio of SC echo power to OC echo power, is 1.17±0.12. The reflectivity of the leading hemisphere may be slightly lower than that of the trailing hemisphere by about 10%, although the polarization ratio appears to vary less. The cross section and polarization ratio are similar to those of the icy Galilean satellites and closest to Ganymede's. For these bodies the high radar backscatter cross sections and high polarization ratios are due to an efficient multiple scattering mechanism in the cold, relatively clean water ice surfaces which have very low propagation loss at radio wavelengths. Rhea's surface appears to be exhibiting a similar effect. Rhea's echo spectra are broad, again similar to those of the icy Galilean satellites, and consistent with a multiple scattering mechanism. In contrast, the bright icy hemisphere of Rhea's sibling Iapetus is significantly more radar dark with a radar reflectivity roughly 10% of Rhea's (Black et al., Science, v304, 2004). On Iapetus this great reduction in scattering efficiency is most likely caused by a radar absorber in the ice, possibly ammonia compounds or buried non-ice material from its dark hemisphere. Rhea's surface ice must therefore be relatively free of contaminants, and have a purity similar to Ganymede's. These observations can constrain the concentration of ammonia in the near surface which would be a strong absorber even in amounts of only a few percent. We acknowledge support by NASA's PG&G program.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 36 #4
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.