Scientists Spot Curious Weather Phenomenon on Saturn’s Moon Titan

A new scientific study has found evidence of changing seasons on Saturn's Moon Titan.

Scientists have long debated whether or not Titan, one of Saturn’s moons has seasonal storms.

After years of searching for evidence, scientists seem to have finally found the smoking gun.

Titan’s north pole as seen by the Cassini Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/University of Idaho.
Titan’s north pole as seen by the Cassini Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona / University of Idaho.

According to reports, a slick shimmer identified on the North Pole of Titan may be the first ever evidence of rainfall in the hemisphere.

In fact, ever since Cassini arrived in orbit around Saturn in 2004, have scientists waiting to spot this curious phenomenon.

The rainfall on Titan would be the first indication of the start of a summer season in the moon’s northern hemisphere.

“The whole Titan community has been looking forward to seeing clouds and rains on Titan’s north pole, indicating the start of the northern summer, but despite what the climate models had predicted, we weren’t even seeing any clouds,” explained Rajani Dhingra, a doctoral student in physics at the University of Idaho in Moscow, and lead author of the new study accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

“People called it the curious case of missing clouds.”

The curious weather phenomenon was spotted by Dhingra, and her colleagues near Titan’s north pole in an image snapped by Cassini on June 7, 2016.

The image was photographed using the spacecraft’s near-infrared instrument, the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer.

The phenomenon spotted by scientists covers more than 45 thousand square miles. Scientists note that it did not appear on images taken before and after.

As explained by Phys.org, the reflective features identified by scientists are most likely the product of sunlight reflecting off a wet surface.

The new study attributes this reflection to methane rainfall followed by what scientists say is a period of evaporation.

This fact indicates that Titan has changing seasons.

“It’s like looking at a sunlit wet sidewalk,” Dhingra explained.

And it is precisely this reflective surface that represents the first-ever observations of summer rainfall on Titan’s northern hemisphere.

Titan is very similar to Earth.

Compared to our planet’s yearly cycle of four seasons, a season on Titan lasts seven Earth years.

“We want our model predictions to match our observations. This rainfall detection proves Cassini’s climate follows the theoretical climate models we know of,” Dhingra explained.

“Summer is happening. It was delayed, but it’s happening. We will have to figure out what caused the delay, though.”

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