NASA Spots An ‘Impossible’ Ice Cloud On Saturn’s Moon Titan

Posted: Sep 21 2016, 12:03pm CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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NASA Spots an ‘Impossible’ Ice Cloud on Saturn’s Moon Titan
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The puzzling appearance of an ice cloud suggests that probably a different process is working on Titan's poles

NASA has been studying Saturn and its moons for years but the remarkable ring system continues to amaze scientists even today.

Recently, NASA scientists have spotted a strange cloud on Saturn’s moon Titan. The cloud is located in Titan's poles and is made of a compound called dicyanoacetylene (C4N2). The presence of icy cloud in this specific region of Saturn’s largest moon is baffling scientists as they believe that the chemical makeup of Titan theoretically does not allow it to have a cloud in its atmosphere. In other words, an icy cloud should not have existed there.

“The appearance of this ice cloud goes against everything we know about the way clouds form on Titan.” Carrie Anderson, a NASA scientist and lead author of the study said.

Titan is the only other place in our solar system known to have Earth-like atmosphere. It is wrapped inside a thick, nitrogen-rich atmosphere and goes through seasonal changes.

On Earth, clouds form with the evaporation of water. Water vapor condenses into clouds when it reaches a certain level. The same kind of process also takes place on Titan's troposphere but not in its north and south winter poles. Here, amospheric circulation moves gas from the warmer hemisphere to the colder one and freeze them in the form of layers over different heights. But in either case, a cloud forms when the air temperature and pressure are favorable for the vapor to condense into ice.

Researchers suggest that it would have need at least 100 times more vapor to form an ice cloud at the place where it has been spotted on Titan. But not enough dicyanoacetylene vapors are present in the area that are required to keep the ice trapped in the cloud. Still cloud is formed and researchers are finding it hard to explain. They have investigated the cloud's composition using Cassini's Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) instrument.

Nevertheless, this is not the first time clouds have been spotted on Titan’s atmosphere. CIRS had detected clouds in Titan's north and south poles which is known as stratosphere before. Some of the clouds lie close to the moon's surface, while others sit higher up in its sky. Ice clouds on Titan’s atmosphere continue to form and disappear with seasonal changes in weather patterns.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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