NASA has announced a new strange vortex discovered on Saturns moon Titan, hinting that winter may be coming its body’s southern areas.
According to astronomy news source Space, NASA’s Cassini probe photographed the polar vortex, where the mass of swirling gas lies, during a flyby of Titan on June 27. The vortex appears to complete one full rotation in nine hours, while it takes Titan about 16 days to spin once around its axis.
According to Tony Del Genio, a Cassini team member at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, “The structure inside the vortex is reminiscent of the open cellular convection that is often seen over Earth’s oceans. But unlike on Earth, where such layers are just above the surface, this one is at very high altitude, maybe a response of Titan’s stratosphere to seasonal cooling as southern winter approaches. But so soon in the game, we’re not sure.”
Titan, which is 3,200 miles wide, had a vortex and a visible “hood” of relatively dense haze high above its north pole which the Cassini captured. Being that it was winter there until Saturn’s August 2009 equinox, it marked fall in the southern reaches of the planet and its many moons and led to this unusual vortex.
The circulation has been migrating from the warming north pole to the cooling south, where it appears to be causing downwellings over Titan’s south pole, along with the formation of high-altitude haze and a vortex there. The Cassini probe first noticed the vortex discovered on Saturns moon Titan in late March, and captured false-color images on May 22 and June 7.
According to Christophe Sotin, a VIMS team member at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, this event is unique because “VIMS has seen a concentration of aerosols forming about 200 miles above the surface of Titan’s south pole. We’ve never seen aerosols here at this level before, so we know this is something new.”
New Strange Vortex Discovered on Saturns Moon Titan.