TUCSON, March 17 (UPI) -- NASA's Cassini spacecraft has observed seasonal rains on Saturn's moon Titan, the first evidence of rains soaking the moon's surface, scientists say.
Researchers at the University of Arizona say the moon's "spring" has brought showers -- of methane, not water -- to its equatorial deserts, a U of A release reported Thursday.
"Titan continues to surprise and amaze us," Alfred McEwen, a planetary scientist at the UA's Lunar and Planetary Lab said. "After years of dry weather in the tropics, an area the size of Arizona and New Mexico combined was darkened by methane rain over a period of just a few weeks."
The new findings show the weather systems of Titan's thick atmosphere and the changes wrought on the moon's surface are affected by the changing seasons.
"It's amazing to be watching such familiar activity as rainstorms and seasonal changes in weather patterns on a distant, icy satellite," said Elizabeth Turtle, a Cassini imaging team associate at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Md.
"These observations are helping us to understand how Titan works as a system, as well as similar processes on our own planet," she said.