According to NASA, a giant ice cloud spotted on one of Saturn’s moon Titan indicates that its southern winter will be really long and cold. The massive ice cloud was spotted last week by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft above the stratosphere on Titan.
The “monstrous” ice cloud is expected to bring down temperatures to as low as minus 238 degrees Farenheit. The new cloud has been formed over Titan’s southern atmosphere at 124 miles. In 2012, scientists discovered an ice cloud, but it was “just the tip of the iceberg,” when compared to this new cloud. Cassini collected information through instruments that can “see” in thermal wavelengths, invisible to the human eye, and can “feel” magnetic fields and tiny dust particles.
Carrie Anderson, of NASA’s Goddard Space Center, said in a statement:
“When we looked at the infrared data, this ice cloud stood like nothing we’ve ever seen before. That cloud is just the tip of a more extensive stratospheric cloud system that has been building up for a little bit of time now, we think, as Titan heads into its southern winter.”
A winter season on Titan lasts for about 7.5 Earth calendar years, but the new ice cloud is set to make it longer. The new cloud is hovering about 60 miles lower than the one found in 2012, said NASA in a press release. NASA added that Titan will be in its winter season, when Cassini finishes its mission in 2017. According to Discovery, Titan is the only world in the solar system to have a stable liquid on its surface, with a thick nitrogen-dominated atmosphere.
Out of Saturn 62 moons, Scientists have said that it is more likely to host alien life, though it is unlikely to produce organisms like those that have evolved on Earth. Robert Samuelson, a Goddard researcher working with Anderson said that everything we are finding at the south pole tells us that the onset of southern winter is much more severe than the later stages of Titan’s northern winter.