Research

Titan’s Dust Storms

Earth and Mars are well-known for their dust storms, but a new source of extraterrestrial dust storms is joining them: Saturn’s moon Titan. Titan already shares unusual similarities to Earth: it is the only other place known to currently have stable liquid bodies at its surface. On Earth, water makes up our lakes and oceans; on Titan, it’s methane.

The evidence that Titan may also have dust storms dates from several Cassini flybys in 2009 and 2010. Cassini observed short-lived infrared bright spots in a dune-covered equatorial region. After considering several other possible sources for these temporary bright spots, researchers concluded that the most likely explanation was dust clouds suspended by high winds. This suggests that the dune fields on Titan are still actively changing, just like those on Earth and Mars! (Image credit: artist’s concept for Titan dust storm – NASA/ESA/IPGP/Labex UnivEarthS/University Paris Diderot; research credit: S. Rodriguez et al.; submitted by jpshoer)

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