Flying past the natural satellite of the planetSaturn, the NASA Cassini spacecraft photographed methane clouds over hydrocarbon seas in the northern part of Titan. According to a forecast made using atmospheric seasonal behavior patterns, this phenomenon marks the beginning of summer storms.
New images of extraterrestrial clouds "Cassini"did at the end of last month after his next rapprochement with Titan. Unusual clouds that appeared and then scattered over the huge Sea of Liegei - the second largest lake of Titan, consisting mainly of ethane and methane. They were monitored for several days. Measurements showed that the clouds moved at a speed of about 3-4.5 meters per second, writes PhysOrg.
Cassini arrived in Saturn in 2004. Since that time, scientists have often observed the activity of clouds at the south pole of the icy moon. However, after the huge storm of 2010, methane clouds in Titan’s nitrogen-rich atmosphere became much smaller. The absence of cloud activity surprised researchers, because a computer simulation of Titan's weather conditions predicted an increase in atmospheric temperature and an increase in cloudiness in the north with the onset of summer. Now, the Cassini scientific team is trying to find out whether the recent appearance of clouds is related to the arrival of summer, or is it a separate event.
The year on Titan lasts about 30 Earth years, oneThe season takes about seven years. Such long time intervals make it difficult to observe seasonal climate changes, especially given the fact that the behavior of the atmosphere is not consistent with calculations based on climate models.
Observation of seasonal climate change on Titanstill remains one of the main tasks of the Cassini mission. At the end of August, Cassini has another scheduled flight around Titan, which will help to find out whether the formation of clouds is associated with a seasonal increase in temperature, as indicated by forecasts made in the past.
Understanding the weather conditions of Titanwill allow scientists to refine atmospheric models to apply to distant exoplanets. It should be noted that Titan is the only cosmic body near the Earth, which has a dense atmosphere and liquid on the surface. It also makes it one of the few habitable places in the solar system.
Previously, scientists were able to "sniff" the atmosphere of Titan.