Scientists were taken aback after Cassini spots a huge storm brewing on the surface of Titan.
An epic ice storm is brewing on Titan, Saturn’s moon, and it’s the first time NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has glimpsed winter on the intriguing moon.
Cassini spotted ice clouds at an altitude of 124 miles, indicating a fierce winter is approaching resulting in a huge polar vortex, according to a Daily Mail report.
This giant cloud sits over Titan’s south pole and stretches 150 miles across. It was detected by the Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) carried aboard Cassini, which has been providing amazing glimpses at the moons in Saturn’s extensive system in recent years.
Scientists think this cloud has about the density of fog — quite low — and it is probably flat on top. A season lasts about seven and a half years, so it’s the beginning of a long, frigid winter for Titan that will stretch well past the end of Cassini’s mission in 2017.
These ice clouds are unlike anything seen on Earth. On Earth, rain water evaporates and freezes as it rices through the troposphere. The clouds in Titan’s troposphere are methane clouds that form in a similar way, but are much higher than the atmosphere and use a different process.
Cassini continues to wow scientists with its images and discoveries since arriving at Saturn in 2004. Back then, Titan’s north pole was in the midst of winter, and now it is transitioning to springtime as winter shifts to the south pole.
The south pole is not a place you’d want to visit. Scientists estimate temperatures dip to -238 degrees Fahrenheit.