Long-lasting squalls on the Saturn moon flood the surface with liquid methane, simulations suggest
JPL-Caltech/NASA, Space Science Institute
OXON HILL, Md. — Beneath the orange haze of Saturn’s moon Titan, methane rains from the sky and pools in lakes — and might even burst forth from massive storm squalls like those seen on Earth.
Titan has garden-variety thunderstorms that bring a bit of rain, then disappear. Now, the Cassini orbiter has seen phenomena that can’t be explained by these run-of-the-mill storms: cloud outbursts, liquid-carved channels and dark regions “reminiscent of rain falling on a parking lot,” planetary scientist Scot Rafkin reported November 11 at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences.
Using computer simulations of cloud systems, Rafkin found that with a bit of wind shear, Titan could produce giant, long-lasting storm systems. On Titan, though, these storms would be beefed up: The squalls would last for longer than 24 hours and travel for