Wednesday, September 28, 2016 Headlines & Global News

'Impossible cloud' on Titan spotted by NASA

NASA, for the second time, spotted an unimaginable cloud on Saturn’s largest moon Titan - the only moon that is known to have a dense atmosphere with a propensity to form clouds.

Sep 22, 2016 02:53 PM EDT

Saturn's largest moon, Titan, looks small here, pictured to the right of the gas giant in this Cassini spacecraft view.
Saturn's largest moon, Titan, looks small here, pictured to the right of the gas giant in this Cassini spacecraft view. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
(Photo : Universal History Archive / Contributor)

A so-called "impossible cloud" has been spotted on Titan by NASA, considering that the Saturnian moon's dense atmosphere point to a unique process of cloud formation. 

According to the Washington Post, Carrie Anderson, the lead study author of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, stated that "the appearance of this ice cloud goes against everything we know about the way clouds form on Titan". Though the moon shares many similarities with Earth it is still much colder and is considered the only place in the solar system where stable liquid sits on the surface.

The cloud that was spotted consisted of a compound of carbon and nitrogen known as dicyanocetylene (C4N2). Similar to how clouds are formed on Earth through evaporation, on Titan clouds have methane instead of water. This was not the first time a unusual cloud had been spotted like this, as NASA spotted a similar ice could on Titan decades ago.

As stated on Zmescience, Michael Flasar, CIRS principal investigator at Goddard, said that "the composition of the polar stratospheres of Titan could not differ more, it is amazing to see how well the underlying physics of both atmospheres has led to analogous cloud chemistry."  What is strange on these ice clouds spotted is the amount of dicyanocetylene vapor present in the area, and it should not be enough to keep ice trapped in the cold in equilibrium.

NASA's Cassini mission spotted the unusual cloud from Titan. Cassini's instruments have been used to riddle out the chemical composition of the cloud and its surrounding.  The seemingly impossible cloud was spotted for the second time on Titan after a long period of time.

 

 

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