Titan News 2021

January 1, 2021 : A New Study Involving Scot C. R. Rafkin Reveals The High Complexity Of Air-Sea Interactions On Titan

A new research work proposed by Scot C. R. Rafkin and Alejandro Soto, recently published in the journal Icarus and entitled « Air-sea interactions on Titan: Lake evaporation, atmospheric circulation, and cloud formation » reveals the high complexity of the various interactions between the lakes or seas and the air on Saturn's largest moon Titan. Evaporation processes, condensation processes and precipitation processes can be encountered on the Opaque Moon like on Earth. A parallel can be drawn between the meteorology of Titan and the meteorology of the Earth even if the key molecule of the meteorological system is different. The meteorology of the Earth is dominated by water (H2O) whereas the meteorology of Titan is dominated by methane (CH4). The mean environmental temperature of the giant moon of the Gas Giant Saturn is much lower than the mean environmental temperature of the Earth so that water can't appear in its liquid form on the surface of Titan in the absence of hot spot. However, the mean environmental temperature of Titan allows the stable presence of liquid methane, liquid ethane or liquid propane on the surface. Thanks to the Cassini-Huygens mission, we know, now, that there are lakes, seas and rivers on Titan.

The lakes, seas or rivers of Titan tend to appear in the high latitudes of each hemisphere. Therefore, the clouds tend to be mostly found at a relatively high latitude of each hemisphere or in the polar areas. Planetologists try to determine the potential interactions between the lakes or seas and the exotic atmosphere. Titan's atmosphere is dominated by molecular nitrogen like our own atmosphere. However, the second most abundant gas of Titan's atmosphere is methane. Oxygen is absent or almost absent in the opaque atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon. Methane represents the key molecule of Titan's hydrology whereas water represents the key molecule of Earth's hydrology. Let's point out that the abundance of liquid methane on Titan's surface is relatively low compared to the abundance of liquid water on the surface of the Blue Planet. The group of researchers revealed the complex mechanisms of the evaporation process between the lakes and the air of the giant moon of the Ringed Planet. Evaporation is in fact governed by a complex process of thermodynamics and dynamics. The scientists also showed that a cold, stable marine layer regularly takes shape in the environment of the pools. The development of clouds on Titan implies special conditions. There may also be very small turbulent fluxes and relatively quiet winds.

The image in the upper part of this table represents a raw view of Saturn's largest moon Titan obtained during the Cassini mission in the Saturn System on August 5, 2016 from the eye of the Cassini spacecraft. The view whose file name is N00264434.jpg was captured on the basis of the CL1 filter and of the CB3 filter. The image had not been validated or calibrated at the time of the observation and a validated or calibrated version was going to be archived with the Planetary Data System proposed by NASA. One can notice, in particular, the relatively dark regions of the low or mid-latitudes as well as dark areas in the lower part of the disk representing seas or lakes dominated by hydrocarbons. The view in the lower part of this table represents a colorized version of the original image. Credit for the original image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute. Credit for the colorization process: Marc Lafferre, 2021.

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