The Cassini Spacecraft by NASA captures moving methane clouds on Titan

The Cassini Spacecraft has captured a time lapse video of methane clouds moving across the northern hemisphere of Titan.

The Cassini Spacecraft has captured a time lapse video of methane clouds moving across the northern hemisphere of Titan. Titan is the largest moon of Saturn. The captured video spans a period of eleven hours with an image captured every twenty minutes. Long streaks of methane clouds appear and disappear over the course of the video. The clouds were moving at a blistering speed of five to seven metres a second.

The time lapse video also shows smaller, slower moving clouds in the northernmost regions of Titan. The dark patches near the poles are lakes of liquid ethane and methane, features of the moon first detected by Cassini. The regions around here have names such as Neagh Lacus and Punga Mare.

The clouds in this region are seen to be moving at a speed of 1 to 2 metres a second. These kinds of videos improve scientific understanding of cloud dynamics, but serve another purpose as well. The short interval between subsequent images allow scientists to separate noise from very faint features of the body under observation.

Usually, Cassini images the clouds at longer intervals, and this was one of the few windows of opportunity scientists had to study cloud dynamics in the atmosphere of Titan, over a relatively short period of time. Current scientific models predicted a much more dynamic cloud activity during the summer period on Titan, suggesting that the weather models of Titan are as yet incomplete. The images were acquired using the narrow-angle camera on Cassini with infrared filters to improve the visibility of Methane clouds.

The Cassini mission is a collaborative effort between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.

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