Tropics of Saturn's Moon No Tropical Paradise On Some Days

false-color image of Titan This image of Titan shows data taken with Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer during the last three flybys of Titan. The flybys took place on Oct. 28, 2005, Dec. 26, 2005, and Jan. 15, 2006.
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August 13, 2009

Astronomers have identified a storm cell on Titan the size of the country of India. The storm system appeared in April 2008 in the moon's tropical region, an area not known for its cloudiness. Using the Gemini North Telescope and NASA Infrared Telescope Facility on Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano, a team of astronomers from the University of Hawaii, the Lowell Observatory, and the California Institute of Technology found a significant mass of methane clouds in a cold desert area where no clouds were expected. Large cloud outbursts such as these are thought to be associated with significant amounts of precipitation and probably play a major part in shaping the geological features on the surface of Titan..

The paper, "Storms in the tropics of Titan," appears in the August 13 issue of Nature.

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