Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Spring on Titan brings sunshine and patchy clouds

Date:
October 1, 2010
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
The northern hemisphere of Saturn's moon Titan is set for mainly fine spring weather, with polar skies clearing since the equinox in August last year. The visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS) aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft has been monitoring clouds on Titan regularly since the spacecraft entered orbit around Saturn in 2004. Now, researchers have analyzed more than 2,000 VIMS images to create the first long-term study of Titan's weather using observational data that also includes the equinox.

False-color image of cloud cover dissolving over Titan's north pole and clouds appearing in the southern mid latitudes.
Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/University of Nantes/University of Paris Diderot

The northern hemisphere of Saturn's moon Titan is set for mainly fine spring weather, with polar skies clearing since the equinox in August last year. The visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS) aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft has been monitoring clouds on Titan regularly since the spacecraft entered orbit around Saturn in 2004.

Related Articles


Now, a group led by S้bastien Rodriguez, a Cassini VIMS team collaborator based at Universit้ Paris Diderot, France, has analyzed more than 2,000 VIMS images to create the first long-term study of Titan's weather using observational data that also includes the equinox. Equinox, when the sun shone directly over the equator, occurred in August 2009.

Rodriguez presented the results and new images at the European Planetary Science Congress in Rome on Sept. 22.

Though Titan's surface is far colder and lacks liquid water, this moon is a kind of "sister world" to Earth because it has a surface covered with organic material and an atmosphere whose chemical composition harkens back to an early Earth. Titan has a hydrological cycle similar to Earth's, though Titan's cycle depends on methane and ethane rather than water.

A season on Titan lasts about seven Earth years. Rodriguez and colleagues observed significant atmospheric changes between July 2004 (early summer in Titan's southern hemisphere) and April 2010 (the very start of northern spring). The images showed that cloud activity has recently decreased near both of Titan's poles. These regions had been heavily overcast during the late southern summer until 2008, a few months before the equinox.

Over the past six years, the scientists found that clouds clustered in three distinct latitude regions of Titan: large clouds at the north pole, patchy clouds at the south pole and a narrow belt around 40 degrees south. "However, we are now seeing evidence of a seasonal circulation turnover on Titan -- the clouds at the south pole completely disappeared just before the equinox and the clouds in the north are thinning out," Rodriguez said. "This agrees with predictions from models and we are expecting to see cloud activity reverse from one hemisphere to another in the coming decade as southern winter approaches."

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team is based at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

More details can be found at: http://www.europlanet-eu.org/outreach/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=288&Itemid=41

For more information about Cassini, go to: http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov .


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Spring on Titan brings sunshine and patchy clouds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 October 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100929192522.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2010, October 1). Spring on Titan brings sunshine and patchy clouds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100929192522.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Spring on Titan brings sunshine and patchy clouds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100929192522.htm (accessed January 25, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Rosetta Captures Stunning Views, Diverse Data Of Comet 67P

Rosetta Captures Stunning Views, Diverse Data Of Comet 67P

Newsy (Jan. 23, 2015) — The first images of the European Space Agency&apos;s Rosetta probe comet orbit could provide clues about its origin and how it got its unique shape. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Planets Could Be Lurking Far Beyond Neptune

New Planets Could Be Lurking Far Beyond Neptune

Newsy (Jan. 21, 2015) — Scientists say planets located beyond Neptune could be altering the orbits of objects in the farthest reaches of our solar system. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
130,000 Pages Of UFO Investigation Docs Now Online

130,000 Pages Of UFO Investigation Docs Now Online

Newsy (Jan. 20, 2015) — "UFO enthusiast" John Greenewald says he&apos;s spent 20 years collecting these docs, and believes there&apos;s a cover-up going on. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
US Navy Satellite Blasts Off

US Navy Satellite Blasts Off

Reuters - News Video Online (Jan. 20, 2015) — A rocket carrying a new U.S. navy satellite that&apos;s designed to improve communications for forces on the move, successfully lifts off from Florida. Yiming Woo reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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