One of NASA’s spacecrafts has noted that an icy cloud looms near Saturn’s moon, Titan. This is reportedly the first time such a phenomenon has been spotted close to the south pole of the moon. The cloud is part of a larger cloud system, named south polar vortex.
The Cassini spacecraft from NASA has collected the information with its futuristic instruments. Thus it could identify thermal wavelengths which cannot be detected by human eye and also navigate through small dust particles and magnetic fields.
Scientists believe that this is a sign pointing towards the fact that winter will be even colder and longer than they expected on Titan’s southern hemisphere. Temperatures are expected to reach -238 degrees Fahrenheit. Usually winter lasts for seven Earth calendar years and half on Titan, but this time it will last longer than 2017, when Cassini’s mission will end.
The ice cloud also seems to be made out of hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon compounds, and it resembles smog. Despite the fact that it is very similar to another cloud found in 2012, researchers believe its features are different enough to be considered a new type of cloud, and not a modified version of the previous one.
Carrie Anderson from NASA’s Flight Center Goddard Space in Greenbelt, MD, considers that this is a brand new feature. A fellow colleague of Anderson, Robert Samuelson, stated that observing Titan’s winter stages is an extraordinary opportunity. He also added that according to the data they studied, the southern winter is more severe than the northern one on Saturn’s moon.
Scientists have long considered Titan among Saturn’s most fascinating moons. The most important reason for that is that Titan is the second place within the solar system to hold stable liquid, after Earth. The moon has an atmosphere made out of nitrogen and its seas contain ethane and methane.
Discoveries in space do not seem to slow down, to the great enthusiasm of scientists and cosmos fans. After the extraordinary milestone of reaching Pluto, we thrive to go not only further but also have the technology to find out as much as possible about the mysterious solar system. As an icy cloud looms near Saturn’s moon, we can only wish for more spacecrafts to be sent out there and satiate our hunger of knowledge.
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