Cassini spacecraft observes seasonal rains on Titan.As spring continues to unfold on Saturn, April showers on the planet’s largest moon, Titan, have brought methane rain to its equatorial deserts, as revealed in images captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. This is the first time scientists have obtained current evidence of rain soaking Titan’s surface at low latitudes. The observations are released in the journal Science.“Titan continues to surprise and amaze us,” said Alfred McEwen, a planetary scientist at the UA’s Lunar and Planetary Lab and a co-author on the paper. “After years of dry weather in the tropics, an area the size of Arizona and New Mexico combined was darkened by methane rain over a period of just a few weeks.”
Extensive rain from large cloud systems, spotted by Cassini’s cameras in late 2010, has apparently darkened the surface of the moon. The best explanation is these areas remained wet after methane rainstorms.The new findings, combined with earlier results reported in Geophysical Research Letters last month, show the weather systems of Titan’s thick atmosphere and the changes wrought on the moon’s surface are affected by the changing seasons.