Watch Methane Clouds Move Above Saturn's Moon Titan [Video]


NASA has unveiled a new time-lapse video that shows how clouds of methane gas streamed across the northern region of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, last month.

According to the space agency, the 11-hour movie sequence was created using images taken by the Cassini spacecraft from Oct. 29 to Oct. 30, with each of the frames captured every 20 minutes.

Methane Clouds On Saturn's Moon

A majority of the clouds seen on the video were long streaks located between 49 and 55 degrees of Titan's northern latitude.

While cloud activity in the region has remained persistent throughout Cassini's observation period, some individual cloud streaks were seen to form and disappear after a while. These cloud formations moved across Saturn's moon at a pace of about 14 to 22 miles per hour.

Smaller clouds were also seen forming over hydrocarbon lakes in the north, such as those spotted between Punga Mare and Neagh Lacus. These clouds streamed across the region at 0.7 to 1.4 miles per hour, after which they disappeared over the course of the video.

While scientists already have an abundance of information on cloud formations on Earth, not much is known about the dynamics behind cloud development in other planets.

NASA explained that time-lapse movies, such as the one captured by Cassini, can provide researchers with knowledge on how clouds typically form on alien worlds.

These videos can also help them determine whether a particular part of an image shows actual cloud formations or mere noise produced by cosmic rays.

Aside from Saturn's moon, cloud formations have also been observed on Mars in the past. These clouds appeared as visible wisps on the red planet's atmosphere.

Previous Cloud Formations On Titan

This is not the first time methane clouds were seen forming on Titan. Researchers observed gas formations on the moon's southern hemisphere in 2006, as well as near its South Pole in 2001.

Scientists believe these methane clouds developed as a result of powerful solar heating bombarding Titan's pole ahead of the summer solstice in the south.

In 2005, researchers spotted cloud formations over Titan's midlatitudes. This was later substantiated by observations from Cassini.

NASA said the spacecraft will continue its observation of weather patterns on Titan's northern hemisphere. The mission will run all through the summer solstice of 2017.

The Cassini spacecraft project is a joint venture between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.

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