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Titan, Saturn moon’s new images has exposed two mysterious glowing patches of gas, one at each pole, just in time for Halloween. The nebulous glowing shapes were shifted to either side so that one appears as dawn reaches the southern hemisphere, whereas the other lines up with dusk in the North. However, NASA stated, “ We are not yet sure about the significance of the glowing clouds, but the discovery is unprecedented.”
Martin Cordiner, an astrochemist working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the lead author of the study stated that, “This is an astonishing and potentially innovative discovery. Such east-to-west variations have never been observed before in Titan’s atmospheric gases. Moreover, the elucidation about their origin presents us with a fascinating new problem.”
In fact, researchers have long been interested in Titan’s atmosphere, thinking it might share characteristics with Earth in its early stages. The images of Titan were taken by ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array), which is a network of high-precision antennas in Chile.
The researchers revealed that the Titan’s poles contain two gases, hydrogen isocyanide (HNC) and cyanoacetylene (HC3N). Though, after examining the highest altitudes, they found the concentrations of the gasses shifted off the poles. These strong, steady east-west winds circling Titan should mean that atmospheric gasses are thoroughly mixed, not concentrated in off-centered masses, researchers stated.
Conor Nixon, a planetary scientist at Goddard and a co-author of the paper, published online today in the Astrophysical Journal Letters stated that, “It seems implausible that chemical mechanisms could be operating on rapid enough time-scales to cause enhanced ‘pocket’’ in the observed molecules. We would expect the molecules to be quickly mixed around the globe by Titan’s winds.”