Huygens Data Confirms Presence Of Methane Fog At Titan’s South Pole

Titan's dense, hydrocarbon rich atmosphere remains a focal point of scientific research. Credit: NASA

Titan is a moon shrouded in mystery. Despite multiple flybys and surface exploration conducted in the past few decades, this Cronian moon still manages to surprise us from time to time. In addition to having a dense atmosphere rich in hydrocarbons, which scientists believe may be similar to what Earth’s own atmosphere was like billions of years ago, it appears that methane is to Titan what water is to planet Earth.In addition, methane fog was also observed by the Cassini space probe back in 2009 as it conducted a flyby of Titan. But recent findings by a team of researchers from York University indicates that the Huygens lander also detected fog during its short time on the surface. This evidence, combined with the data obtained by Cassini, have helped to shed light on the weather patterns of this mysterious moon.In a paper that appeared in arXiv on March 14th, Dr. Christina Smith – a postdoctoral student from York University’s Center for Research in Earth and Space Sciences (CRESS) – described how the Huygens probe’s Side Looking Imager (SLI) obtained information that has since been analyzed to identify potential atmospheric features. These features show that Titan experiences meteorological phenomena which were not previously known.In total, the team looked over 82 SLI images, which were all taken after the lander reached the surface. These were then calibrated, processed and examined for signs of atmospheric features. Of these, six showed evidence of an extended horizontal feature that differed in radiance from what was predicted at higher and lower regions. No other discernible features were detected.The team concluded that this feature most likely originated from the presence of a fog bank close to the horizon that rose and fell during the period of observation. This indicated that it had recently —> Read More