Home > Astronomy, Cassini, Saturn, Solar System, Spaceflight, Unmanned Spaceflight > Ice Cloud Heralds Fall At Titan’s South Pole

Ice Cloud Heralds Fall At Titan’s South Pole


 

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/GSFC

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/GSFC

An ice cloud taking shape over Titan’s south pole is the latest sign that the change of seasons is setting off a cascade of radical changes in the atmosphere of Saturn’s largest moon. Made from an unknown ice, this type of cloud has long hung over Titan’s north pole, where it is now fading, according to observations made by the Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

“We associate this particular kind of ice cloud with winter weather on Titan, and this is the first time we have detected it anywhere but the north pole,” said the study’s lead author, Donald E. Jennings, a CIRS Co-Investigator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The southern ice cloud, which shows up in the far infrared part of the light spectrum, is evidence that an important pattern of global air circulation on Titan has reversed direction. When Cassini first observed the circulation pattern, warm air from the southern hemisphere was rising high in the atmosphere and got transported to the cold north pole. There, the air cooled and sank down to lower layers of the atmosphere, where it formed ice clouds. A similar pattern, called a Hadley cell, carries warm, moist air from Earth’s tropics to the cooler middle latitudes.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/whycassini/cassini20130411.html

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