New images indicate that winter is coming on Saturn’s moon, Titan, captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft orbiting around the space object.
- NASA’s Cassini started its mission in 2004, when Titan was mid-winter
- It takes 7.5 Earth years for winter to arrive on Saturn’s moon
- The spacecraft captured images of the giant ice cloud from 186 miles away
- The cloud held dramatically low temperatures, hinting at the beginning of winter
A giant cloud has been spotted at the southern pole of Titan. According to NASA, it’s nothing like they’ve ever seen before, and it’s an exquisite discovery that would lead to more information about season changes on Saturn’s moon. Back in 2004, when Cassini made its first approach on Saturn and started capturing spectacular images, its moon was mid-winter.
Much like in the ‘Game of Thrones’ series referenced in the title, it takes several years for winter to arrive on Saturn’s moon. Specifically, it takes 7.5 years on Earth for the full rotation, meaning that NASA’s spacecraft never caught it entering the colder season. Now, it will grab the opportunity of watching it unveil from beginning to end.
Their newest images captured a huge cloud formation on Titan’s south polar stratosphere, according to Dr. Carrie Anderson from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The impressive pictures were captured from 186 miles above Saturn’s moon. Much like the fog on Earth, the cloud presents with low density, but it’s likely to be flat on top.
However, the cloud on Titan forms a bit differently. While the ice clouds have been disappearing on the warmer side of the moon, the north pole, they have begun appearing on the colder south pole. These formations happen when the circulation across the moon’s atmosphere shifts the gas from the warm hemisphere to the colder one. There, the warmer air sinks.
Both the composition of hydrocarbons and nitrogen, and the ice cloud’s altitude and size will help NASA scientists better understand the exciting seasonal changes on Saturn’s moon. The south pole, is of particular interest as it reaches winter. This is due to the fact that their findings have shown that the “southern winter” is much more severe than any “northern winter” at its peak.
Reportedly, the ice clouds on Titan’s south pole could reach minimal temperatures of -238o Fahrenheit. According to Dr. Anderson, it virtually smacked them in the face, by standing out from any other cloud formation they have ever seen on Saturn’s moon. There are more seasonal changes coming, and more images to snap of Titan’s exciting winter.
NASA’s Cassini ends its mission in 2017, during which the moon will still be in the dead of winter. It will successfully capture its inception after snapping images of its end and during the warmer seasons on the distant moon.
Image source: vishwagujarat.com