Status Report

Winter Is Coming on Titan

By SpaceRef Editor
July 12, 2012
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False-color images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft show the development of a hood of high-altitude haze – which appears orange in this image — forming over the south pole of Saturn’s moon Titan. These images were obtained on May 22 and June 7, 2012 by the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer in infrared wavelengths. Scientists assigned the colors red, green and blue to wavelengths mostly sensitive to the stratosphere, troposphere, and surface components, respectively.

The newly discovered feature appears several hundred miles (kilometers) above the surface. When Cassini arrived at Saturn, it saw a hood of clouds and haze over Titan’s north pole, which was experiencing winter. The south pole was basically clear, except for sporadic methane clouds. The seasons have been changing and the circulation in the upper atmosphere goes now from the illuminated north pole to the cooling south pole, causing downwellings over the south pole and formation of the hood.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team is based at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/LPGNantes Full-Res: PIA15609

SpaceRef staff editor.