Cassini Sees Northern Clouds Returning to Titan

©NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Northern Clouds Return to Titan

As NASA's Cassini spacecraft sped away from Titan following a relatively close flyby, its cameras monitored the moon's northern polar region, capturing signs of renewed cloud activity.

Cassini scientists noted a decrease in clouds everywhere on Titan after a large storm in 2010, and expected clouds to return sooner, based on computer models of Titan's atmosphere. Continued monitoring should help them determine if the clouds' appearance signals the beginning of summer weather patterns, or if it is an isolated occurrence.

A streak of methane clouds is seen here, near center, over the large methane sea known as Ligeia Mare.

An image taken on July 21, 2014 using the Cassini spacecraft's narrow-angle camera was reprojected to create this orthogonal view.

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Clouds Over Ligeia Mare on Titan

This animated sequence of Cassini images shows methane clouds moving above the large methane sea on Saturn's moon Titan known as Ligeia Mare.

The spacecraft captured the views between July 20 and July 22, 2014, as it departed Titan following a flyby. Cassini tracked the system of clouds as it developed and dissipated over Ligeia Mare during this two-day period. Measurements of the cloud motions indicate wind speeds of around 7 to 10 miles per hour (3 to 4.5 meters per second).

The timing between exposures in the sequence varies. In particular, there is a 17.5-hour jump between the second and third frames. Most other frames are separated by one to two hours.

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The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://www.nasa.gov/cassini. The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org.

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