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Forecast calls for stormy weather on Saturn's moon Titan

May 22, 2013 at 3:45 PM   |   Comments

PASADENA, Calif., May 22 (UPI) -- U.S. astronomers studying Saturn's moon Titan say it might be in for some wild weather as it heads into its seven-year-long spring and summer seasons.

Titan and Saturn orbit around the sun once every 29.5 Earth years, accounting for the long seasons on the ringed planet's moon, they said.

As the seasons change in Titan's northern hemisphere, waves could ripple across the moon's hydrocarbon seas and hurricanes could begin to swirl over these areas, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said Wednesday.

Computer models using data obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn will help mission team members plan when and where to look for unusual atmospheric disturbances as Titan summer approaches, they said.

"If you think being a weather forecaster on Earth is difficult, it can be even more challenging at Titan," Cassini's deputy project scientist Scott Edgington said. "We know there are weather processes similar to Earth's at work on this strange world, but differences arise due to the presence of unfamiliar liquids like methane.

"We can't wait for Cassini to tell us whether our forecasts are right as it continues its tour through Titan spring into the start of northern summer."

Titan will be approaching northern solstice, the height of summer, by 2017, as Cassini nears the end of its mission, the scientists said.

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