Strange clouds on Titan explained?

Aug. 16, 2011 at 4:18 PM

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- UCLA researchers say they think they know why Saturn's moon Titan has what looks like an enormous white arrow about the size of Texas on its surface.

By using a global circulation model of Titan to demonstrate how planetary-scale atmospheric waves might affect the moon's weather patterns, they discovered a "stenciling" effect that results in sharp and sometimes surprising cloud shapes, a university release said Tuesday.

The fascinating clouds, including arrow-shaped ones, produced by the atmospheric waves can cause intense precipitation up to more than 20 times Titan's average seasonal rainfall and may be responsible for shaping the surface of Saturn's largest moon by erosion, researchers said.

"Titan is like Earth's strange sibling -- the only other rocky body in the solar system that currently experiences rain," Jonathan L. Mitchell, professor of earth and space sciences, said.

The research was published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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