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March 29, 2011

Spring Showers on Titan

The Cassini spacecraft spotted the first evidence for methane rain soaking Saturn's moon's surface around its equatorial regions. The storm developed in late September last year, with an area the size of New Mexico and Arizona combined being darkened due to the methane rain. Until now, it was uncertain whether methane rains were responsible for some of the surface features seen in the equatorial regions.

Titan's methane-rich weather systems form as part of an Earth-like water cycle, with methane-filled lakes present in the moon's polar regions. These storm outbreaks may be the Titan equivalent of what creates Earth’s tropical rainforest climates. However, tropical rain clouds on Earth are present year-round and only shift slightly with the seasons, whereas on Titan it seems that these tropical storms only dominate near the equinoxes.

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Posted by schultka at March 29, 2011 12:47 AM


This is very interesting. I wonder whether or not methane could act a suitable replacement for water. In class we learned that water has several important roles, but it appears as though some of them may be replaced with another liquid if given the right conditions. Only time will tell.

Posted by: strodel at March 29, 2011 03:56 PM

I concur with the above comment, but the only thing I would worry about is the other elements present at the moon and whether these are appropriate for life or not. Also, would the gravity of Titan be enough to hold in key elements?

Posted by: emmatula at March 30, 2011 12:11 PM

It doesn't seem like Titan would be fit for having life at any point in time, but spotting methane rain is certainly a very intriguing thing. Essentially, this could be what we equate on Earth to be tropical rainstorms. At the very least, these methane rain showers give us a better understanding of the surface features of Saturn's ever-surprising moon, Titan, and how it may have come to be.

Posted by: nikraman at March 31, 2011 11:20 PM

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