Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cassini Images Mammoth Cloud Engulfing Titan's North Pole

Date:
February 5, 2007
Source:
European Space Agency
Summary:
A giant cloud half the size of the United States has been imaged on Saturn's moon Titan by the Cassini spacecraft. The cloud may be responsible for the material that fills the lakes discovered last year by Cassini's radar instrument.

Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS) has imaged a huge cloud system covering the north pole of Titan. This composite image shows the cloud, imaged at a distance of 90 000 kilometers during a 29 December 2006 flyby designed to observe the limb of the moon.
Credit: s: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

A giant cloud half the size of the United States has been imaged on Saturn’s moon Titan by the Cassini spacecraft. The cloud may be responsible for the material that fills the lakes discovered last year by Cassini's radar instrument.

Cloaked by winter's shadow, this cloud has now come into view as winter turns to spring. The cloud extends down to 60 degrees north latitude, is roughly 2400 kilometers in diameter and engulfs almost the entire north pole of Titan.

The new image was acquired on 29 December 2006, by Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS). Scientific models predicted this cloud system but it had never been imaged with such details before.

"We knew this cloud had to be there but were amazed at its size and structure," said Dr. Christophe Sotin of the University of Nantes, France, a member of the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team and distinguished visiting scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "This cloud system may be a key element in the global formation of organics and their interaction with the surface."

The same cloud system seen on 29 December 2006, was still there two weeks later during the flyby which took place on 13 January 2007, even though observing conditions were slightly less favorable than in December.

The Cassini radar team reported last year that the lakes at the north pole are partly filled and some appear to have evaporated, likely contributing to this cloud formation, which is made up of ethane, methane and other organics.

These findings reinforce the idea that methane rains down onto the surface to form lakes, and then evaporates to form clouds. Scientists compare this methane cycle to the hydrological cycle on Earth, dubbing it 'methane-ologic cycle'.

Ground-based observations show this Titan cloud system comes and goes with the seasons. A season on Titan lasts approximately seven Earth years. Based on the global circulation models, it seems that such cloud activity can last about 25 Earth years before almost vanishing for four to five years, and then appearing again for 25 years.

Scientists expect this cloud to be around for several years. As the seasons change, scientists expect a shift of these clouds and lakes from the north pole to the south pole. On Titan's south pole, scientists have seen only one kidney-shaped lake with Cassini’s imaging cameras.

"With 16 more flybys to come this year, we should have the opportunity to monitor the evolution of this cloud system over time," said Dr. Stephane Le Mouelic, working with the Cassini visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team, and also at the University of Nantes.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team is based at the University of Arizona, Tucson, and counts a number of scientists across Europe.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Space Agency. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Space Agency. "Cassini Images Mammoth Cloud Engulfing Titan's North Pole." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 February 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070204111631.htm>.
European Space Agency. (2007, February 5). Cassini Images Mammoth Cloud Engulfing Titan's North Pole. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070204111631.htm
European Space Agency. "Cassini Images Mammoth Cloud Engulfing Titan's North Pole." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070204111631.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

A Hoax? Cosmetics Company Wants To Brighten The Moon

A Hoax? Cosmetics Company Wants To Brighten The Moon

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2014) FOREO, a Swedish cosmetics company, says it wants to brighten the moon to lower electricity costs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station

Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) On it's second attempt this week, The Space X company launched Friday from Cape Canaveral to ferry supplies to the International Space Station. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Unmanned Falcon 9 Rocket Blasts Off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida

Unmanned Falcon 9 Rocket Blasts Off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 18, 2014) The rocket, built and operated by Space Exploration Technologies, carries a Dragon cargo ship loaded with supplies and equipment destined for the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earth's Near-Twin Found Orbiting Red Dwarf

Earth's Near-Twin Found Orbiting Red Dwarf

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The newly-discovered planet is roughly the size of Earth and could have liquid water on its surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins