Giant cloud forms over Titan’s pole

A massive cloud half the size of the USA has been spotted above the north pole of Saturn’s biggest moon Titan. The vast cloud – pictured by an orbiting spaceprobe called Cassini – is thought to contain the rain that fills the lakes and rivers covering Titan’s northern hemisphere.

Cloud over TitanIt came into view after being hidden by winter’s shadow as spring arrived on that region of the remote moon.

Scientists believe the cloudbank could survive for 25 years years – a season on Titan lasts around seven Earth years.

Nasa scientist Dr Christophe Sotin, of the University of Nantes, France, said: “We knew this cloud had to be there but were amazed at its size and structure. This cloud system may be a key element in the global formation of organics and their interaction with the surface.”

Titan’s alien Lake District, far on the other side of the solar system, was discovered by Cassini’s radar instruments last year. But they are thought to contain liquid methane and other organic materials rather than water as on Earth.

Titan, which is 3,200 miles wide, has also been found to have snow-topped mountains. Scientists believe it resembles Earth as it was four billion years ago and so could be a new cradle for life. The Cassini mission is a joint project by Nasa and the European Space Agency.

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Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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