Titan, the largest of Saturn’s moons, shown here from composite images from the Cassini spacecraft.  Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.

Titan, the largest of Saturn’s moons, shown here from composite images from the Cassini spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.

Good morning, Earthlings!

Today, we’ll venture forth to the mysterious moon of Saturn, Titan! A brief recap about Titan: it is Saturn’s largest moon (may have even been a captured mini-planet!), has a thick atmosphere, various geology, and is thought to be a “primordial Earth” (or what Earth may have been in its young development billions of years ago!)

Let’s take a look at the recent weather forecasts…

A recent study led by doctoral student Rajani Dhingra at the University of Idaho would analyze images from the Cassini spacecraft for evidence of seasonal summer rainfalls, especially in the northern pole where the giant lake regions of Titan reside. However, the team ran into a problem- there were no clouds like models predicted.

On an image taken in summer 2016, Dhingra and her team identified a reflective feature near Titan’s northern pole. This feature was not present in previous images and covered over 46,000 square miles.

What was it?

Turns out, it’s analogous to looking at the reflection off wet sidewalks. The feature was a reflection of sunlight against a recently wet surface, attributing to a methane rainfall event.

What’s the next step?

Now to compare Earth’s early climate models and behavior to that of Titan. Where Earth has a yearly cycle of 4 seasons, 1 season on Titan lasts nearly 7 years!

But this rainfall should provide clues to how seasons transition on Titan, lake behavior in the northern and southern hemispheres, and reactions of the rain to the various geologic features.

You can read her paper here: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1029/2018GL080943

Figure from Dhingra’s paper. Titan’s north pole as seen by the Cassini spacecraft. Dark blue arrows mark clouds. Red arrows mark the mirror-like reflection from a lake called Xolotlan Lacus. Pink arrows mark the “wet sidewalk”region. The black dot marks the actual north pole of Titan. Light blue arrows mark the edges of the largest north polar sea, Kraken Mare. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/University of Idaho.

Figure from Dhingra’s paper. Titan’s north pole as seen by the Cassini spacecraft. Dark blue arrows mark clouds. Red arrows mark the mirror-like reflection from a lake called Xolotlan Lacus. Pink arrows mark the “wet sidewalk”region. The black dot marks the actual north pole of Titan. Light blue arrows mark the edges of the largest north polar sea, Kraken Mare. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/University of Idaho.

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at Cleo the Spider!