Head in the clouds of Titan
Titan, Saturn’s biggest satellite – and the only satellite in the solar system with a dense atmosphere – has revealed its cloud cover. Its atmosphere is the site of a very active meteorology with very marked seasonal cycles due to the sharp inclination of the satellite’s rotational axis. Lying ten times further from the Sun than Earth, Titan takes 29 years to orbit our star and each season lasts about seven years. Cloud formation in Titan’s atmosphere is not the result of the condensation of water but of methane and ethane. Launched in 1997, the international mission Cassini-Huygens has the task of studying the planet Saturn and its environment. The study of its satellite Titan is one of the mission’s major aims. Observations carried out with the VIMS (Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer) scientific instrument between July 2004 and December 2007 made it possible to produce the first map of Titan’s clouds on the basis of more than 200 clouds recorded during this period. The spatial distribution of the clouds revealed by this study, published in Nature, gives precise indications of Titan’s atmosphere and in particular of the mechanisms that govern its cloud cover. The clouds are distributed in the two polar regions and across a latitudinal band around 40°S, this confirming the dominant role of air circulation in cloud distribution, as the satellite’s climate models predict. The evolution of cloud cover through the seasons is understood less well, however. So there is still work to do for the Cassini-Huygens mission that ‘interplanetary meteorologists’ hope to extend until 2017.
Source: research*eu No.62 Feb 2010 (The magazine of European Research Area)
Do they mean they think about Titan in a way that is not practical or something else? Or they are not aware of Titan and are interested in it?