New observations of Saturn’s moon Titan overturn the previous consensus that large convective clouds cannot form near Titan’s equator. Titan is the only other place in the Solar System besides Earth with a condensable species (methane on Titan, water on Earth) that forms clouds and rain. Methane clouds and lakes have been observed in the moist high latitudes previously, but the tropics have been virtually devoid of convective clouds. The new images of Titan from the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility and the Gemini North telescope, both on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, reveal a large cloud system made up of bright, transient, tropospheric clouds at tropical latitudes. An initial pulse of cloud activity generated planetary waves that caused clouds at other latitudes across Titan that have been cloud-free for several years.
- Storms in the tropics of Titan (Letter p873, doi: 10.1038/nature08193)
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