The cold season usually lasts around seven and a half Earth years on Saturn’s moon, but a giant storm cloud spotted by the Cassini spacecraft might mean that winter is coming for Saturn’s moon Titan and will most likely stay there for a long time.
Since it launched in 1997 and it’s entry into orbit 11 years ago, the Cassini Composite Infrared Spectrometer has only witnessed one full winter on Titan due to its seven and a half year length. But the recent discovery of a gigantic cloud of cold and frozen compounds that sits near the moon’s south pole at about 162 miles height has made scientists believe that this winter will last a lot more time than previous ones.
This particular long winter might last even after the Cassini probe will abandon its reconaissance mission being held near the many moons of Saturn. The ice cloud that brought forth the previous southern winter was able to bring temperatures down to almost -238 degrees Fahrenheit. This type of cloud is created through a process called subsidence.
Subsidence consists of warm gas clouds that are pushed together at high altitudes in the moon’s atmosphere, until they start to slowly fall down towards the lower regions of said atmosphere, lowering their temperatures gradually as they descend. But the new cloud which may bring forth a very long winter for Titan was found at a lower altitude than the previous cloud, meaning that it will bring even lower temperatures.
By constantly analyzing the various atmospheric movements and phenomena, scientists are hoping to better understand the various processes that come along with these occurrences. They may even being to apply this to other moons or planets, depending on their atmospheric composition and their relative distance from both the star an the planet which they are orbiting, when talking about a moon.
Because Titan is the only planet or planetoid in our system that has liquid on its surface, it’s constant study isof great value. It is most likely the only place in our solar system apart from Earth that actually has the ability to host alien life. But the recent findings about its extremely long and harsh winters might mean two things. Titan is either completely devoid of life due to the extreme weathers that lash the planet constantly, or if there is life on the planet, it has evolved in order to combat the cold and probably resides at the bottom of the deepest regions on the moon, to better insulate itself from the cold.
Even if winter is coming for Saturn’s moon Titan, that doesn’t mean scientists will stop studying the moon, quite the contrary, this southern winter being the first winter ever witnessed during its early onset.