The Sciences

#56: Earth-like Storms Mysteriously Appear on Saturn’s Moon Titan

“For so long, it was cloud-free. Then, all of a sudden, they dramatically appeared.”

By Andrew GrantDec 29, 2009 6:00 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

With its thick atmosphere, rippling lakes, and eroded landscapes, Saturn’s giant moon Titan has a lot in common with Earth. In August scientists added another similarity shared by these unlikely siblings: stormy weather. Using the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility and Gemini North Observatory, planetary scientist Emily Schaller of the University of Arizona identified a massive storm that appeared near Titan’s equator. “For so long, it was cloud-free,” says Schaller, who devoted her doctoral research to a largely fruitless search for Titanic clouds. “Then, all of a sudden, they dramatically appeared.”

Schaller’s team could not confirm whether precipitation fell, but other studies have offered strong evidence that methane clouds on Titan dump methane rain in a cycle much like the exchange of water between the atmosphere and the surface of Earth. The scientists are now trying to determine whether Titan’s storm resulted from atmospheric conditions or from surface activity, such as methane-spewing geysers or volcanoes.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month
Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
1 free articleSubscribe
Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.