NASA scientists spot ice clouds on Saturn’s moon Titan that shouldn’t exist

According to latest research reports, scientists at US-based space agency NASA spotted impossible clouds on Saturn’s moon Titan.¬†Traditionally, Earth and Titan are very different from one another. However, there is one specific similarity between them. They could be producing impossible clouds on Saturn’s icy, hydrocarbon moon.

In November 1980, NASA’s Voyager 1 probe flew past Saturn and captured stunning images of the ringed planet. The vehicle also snapped a wide range of strange moons nearly 36 years back. However, in one image fetched by the spacecraft’s infrared camera, the probe caught an unusual cloud high up in the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft spotted unusual clouds on Titan

Recently, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft also found one of these unusual clouds with the same technology using its composite infrared spectrometer (CIRS). According to sources, researchers are crazy to find the real cause for the existence of these clouds especially when the Titan’s atmosphere is almost completely covered in a thick hydrocarbon haze. Based on the behavior of Titan’s atmosphere, these clouds should not exist.

Clouds on Titan are formed in same way as Earth

As per studies, the clouds on Titan are expected to form in the same manner as they occur on Earth. The only exception is that it makes use of different materials given the fact that the extreme temperatures are far out from the Sun.

The first step in the proposed process is the formation of ice particles made from the related chemical cyanoacetylene (HC3N). As these tiny bits of ice move downward through Titan’s stratosphere, they get coated by hydrogen cyanide (HCN). At this stage, the ice particle has a core and a shell comprised of two different chemicals.

Responding to media, Carrie Anderson, who is a CIRS co-investigator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center disclosed that they are very excited to find several examples of similar solid-state chemical processes on both Titan and Earth.

impossible clouds

Dicyanoacetylene required for the development of clouds on Titan

In order to form Titan clouds, there needs to be enough dicyanoacetylene (C4N2), which is a chemical compound, which is required for the clouds to develop. This is somewhat similar to the requirement of an abundant supply of water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere.

You need a proper mixture of the temperature and pressure to enable the vapor to condense out of the atmosphere into liquid. This will cause them to freeze like ice crystals.

According to scientists, both Voyager 1 and Cassini were unable to detect enough of dicyanoacetylene vapor present to account for the cloud’s formation. Commenting on the development, NASA spokesperson claimed that both spacecraft detected only one per cent of the amount of dicyanoacetylene vapor needed to produce an active cloud formation. This is more or less equivalent to clouds production in a desert.

To solve the issue, NASA scientists deeply dissected into how polar stratospheric clouds, also called as nacreous clouds, form on Earth. When chlorofluorocarbon gases are formed and enter into the stratosphere, they will not combine with water vapor. Instead, they stick to tiny ice crystals.


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Anand Deb

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