Winter on Titan is announced by a giant ice cloud, hovering above the moon’s south pole. The largest moon of Saturn is transitioning into winter and NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is there to witness the process.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft picked up images of the large icy formation above the moon’s south pole. It was only released, but it precedes a longer investigation into the succession of season on Titan and the atmospheric changes they bring.
The giant ice cloud imaged by Cassini’s Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) is looming in the low to mid stratosphere of Titan. Close to the surface, at 124 miles altitude, the icy formation became as such as temperatures dropped to -238 degrees Fahrenheit according to the estimates of NASA scientists studying the phenomenon.
This isn’t the first time Cassini beamed back data on seasonal transition on Titan. In 2012, a similar giant cloud was spotted above Saturn’s moon south pole, at 186 miles altitude. However, as winter on Titan is announced by a giant ice cloud, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft provides in depth data on further developments. At the same time, it is the first NASA spacecraft to closely observe winter on Titan. CIRS is a valuable tool for capturing these shifts at thermal wavelengths.
We may expect more on the transition to winter and the development of the season on Titan. Mainly because one season on Saturn’s moon lasts for seven and a half years. By the time NASA’s Cassini spacecraft ends its mission in 2017, Titan will be experiencing full winter still.
The giant ice cloud hovering above the moon’s south pole has been an exciting and unexpected findings according to Carrie Anderson with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. As the icy formation became suddenly visible, it also became a research theme presented at the Meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society taking place on November 11th.
According to the scientific team researching the season transition on Titan, the gas clouds forming in Titan’s troposphere follow a similar pattern to the formation of rain clouds in Earth’s troposphere.
However, they transform into polar clouds as circulation transports the gases from one pole to the other. As they reach the colder pole, the warm air sinks, with the gases condensing at different temperatures. Several blankets of gas clouds are formed at different altitudes. Together, when the temperatures drops sufficiently, they form a giant ice cloud above Titan’s south pole.
Photo Credits: jpl.nasa.gov
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