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By Lumistar's Chief Scientist

March 7, 2011

Infrared Camera Finds First Extraterrestrial Rain

As astronomers will tell you, the only visible region of Saturn’s smoggy moon of Titan is the desert like region located at the equator which has giant sand dunes (50 miles long, half mile wide and 900 feet high). What is known about Titan is that it’s around 290 degrees Fahrenheit below zero causing the regions of extreme cold located at the north and south poles to form thousands of lakes of super-chilled hydrocarbons.

Recently, scientists from Johns Hopkins University studied infrared time lapsed images of Titan’s sand dunes using NASA’s Cassini satellite’s infrared camera, as it has recently become spring on Titan. Scientists noticed decreases in the brightness of the moon’s surface after clouds had swept over the equatorial region. After close study they were able to find infrared images confirmed methane rain was present leaving areas the size of Arizona and New Mexico combined wet.  The Cassini probe has given proof that Titan has seasonal climate similar to Earth.  Instead of water, as on Earth, Titan’s cycles of precipitation and cloud formation involve hydrocarbons methane and ethane.  No word if these methane rain showers cause rives to form.  Due to Titan’s location in the outer solar system scientists have 7.5 years to figure it out, as spring comes every 30 years. [See video above.]



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