The Cassini mission has greatly expanded our knowledge not only of the solar system but specific planets and moons like Titan.
The analysis of Cassini mission data, which explored Saturn and its moons between 2004 and 2017, has revealed for the first time what appeared to be dust storms in the equatorial regions of Titan.
“Titan is a very active moon,” says Sebastien Rodriguez, an astronomer at the University Paris Diderot, France, and the lead author of the paper.
“We already know that about its geology and exotic hydrocarbon cycle. Now we can add another analogy with Earth and Mars: the active dust cycle.”
The finding, described in an article published in Nature Geoscience, makes Titan the third body in the Solar System, next to Earth and Mars, where dust storms have been observed.
“This is helping scientists to better understand the fascinating and dynamic environment Saturn’s most enigmatic moon, and to add points in favor of the notion that this world can harbor life as we know it,” explains ESA.
Scientists already know that Titan is an intriguing alien world. However, they were surprised to find how similar it is to Earth.
According to experts, Titan is the only moon in the Solar System that has been discovered to have a substantial atmosphere.
Furthermore, it is considered the only celestial body in the solar system, other than our planet, where stable bodies of surface liquid are known to exist.
However, while on Earth the liquid bodies are water, on Titan, this is primarily methane and ethane.
Scientists have further discovered that just as on Earth, the weather on Titan varies from season to season, especially around the Equinox, the time when the Sun crosses Titan’s equator. During this time, massive clouds tend to form in tropical regions causing powerful methane storms.
This was observed by Cassini during several of its Titan flybys.