Helene: A Plastic Model

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 11:05 AM
Jeffrey M Moore, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States, Orkan M Umurhan, SETI Institute Mountain View, Mountain View, CA, United States, Alan D Howard, University of Virginia Main Campus, Charlottesville, VA, United States, Paul Schenk, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, TX, United States and Oliver L White, NASA Ames Research Center, MS 245-3, Moffett Field, CA, United States
Helene, the Saturnian L4 Trojan satellite co-orbiting Dionne and sitting within the E-ring, possesses an unusual morphology characteristic of broad km-scale basins and depressions and a generally smooth surface patterned with streaks and grooves which are indicative of non-typical mass transport. Elevation angles do not appear to exceed 10o at most. The nature and origin of the surface materials forming these grooved patterns is unknown. Given the low surface gravity (<5mm/s2), it hard to imagine how such transport features can come about with such low grades and surface gravities. Preliminary examinations of classical linear and nonlinear mass wasting mechanisms do not appear to reproduce these curious features. A suite of hypothesis that we examine is the possibility that the fine grain material on the surface has been either (i) accreted or (ii) generated as refractory detritus resulting from sublimation of the icy bedrock, and that these materials subsequently mass-waste like a non-Newtonian highly non-linear creeping flow. Modifying the landform evolution model MARSSIM to handle two new mass-wasting mechanism, the first due to glacial-like flow via Glen's Law and the second due to plastic-like flow like a Bingham fluid, we setup and test a number of likely scenarios to explain the observations. The numerical results qualitatively indicate that treating the mass-wasting materials as a Bingham material reproduces many of the qualitative features observed. We also find that in those simulations in which accretion is concomitant with Bingham mass-wasting, the long time-evolution of the surface flow shows intermittency in the total surface activity (defined as total surface integral of the absolute magnitude of the mass-flux). Detailed analyses identify the locations where this activity is most pronounced and we will discuss these and its implications in further detail.