Saturn’s Moon Titan Shows Signs of Fresh Rainfall, Say Researchers

By  //  January 17, 2019

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Titan is 50% larger than Earth's Moon

New research provides evidence of rainfall on the north pole of Titan, the largest of Saturn’s moons, shown here. The rainfall would be the first indication of the start of a summer season in the moon’s northern hemisphere, according to the researchers. (NASA Image)

(FOX NEWS) – Saturn’s moon Titan, which some scientists have theorized could be the home to extraterrestrial life due to the presence of surface liquid and dust storms, is providing another surprise to researchers — the sight of fresh rainfall.

Prior to making its death plunge into the ringed planet, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft was able to capture a reflective feature near the north pole of Saturn’s largest moon. The image was taken in June 2016 and was published in a study in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters on Wednesday.

“It’s like looking at a sunlit wet sidewalk,” said Rajani Dhingra, a doctoral student in physics at the University of Idaho, in a statement. She noted that additional analysis suggested the methane rain fell on a “relatively pebble-like surface.”

Dhingra added that the scientific community had been in search of clouds and rains on the north pole of Titan, but had yet to see any, despite what their models suggested. “People called it the curious case of missing clouds,” she said.

The image covers approximately 43,330 square miles (roughly half the size of the Great Lakes) on Titan and the researchers noted that the glistening rainfall disappeared quickly, which likely means it was made up of methane rain, according to the study’s abstract.

At 50 percent larger than Earth’s Moon, Titan is the second largest moon in the solar system, behind only Ganymede of Jupiter.

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Titan’s north pole as seen by the Cassini Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer. The orange box shows the “wet sidewalk” region, what analyses suggests is evidence of changing seasons and rain on Titan’s north pole. The blue box shows the expanded region in the bottom panel. Bottom Panel: Pictured is an expanded view of Titan’s north pole. Dark blue arrows mark clouds. Red arrows mark the mirror-like reflection from a lake called Xolotlan Lacus. Pink arrows mark the “wet sidewalk”region. The black dot marks the actual north pole of Titan. Light blue arrows mark the edges of the largest north polar sea, Kraken Mare. (NASA Image)

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