January 3, 2017 – Floating high above the hydrocarbon lakes, wispy clouds have finally started to return to Titan’s northern latitudes.
Clouds like these disappeared from Titan’s (3,200 miles or 5,150 kilometers across) northern reaches for several years (from about 2010 to 2014). Now they have returned, but in far smaller numbers than expected.
Since clouds can quickly appear and disappear, Cassini scientists regularly monitor the large moon, in the hopes of observing cloud activity. They are especially interested in comparing these observations to predictions of how cloud cover should change with Saturn’s seasons. Titan’s clear skies are not what researchers expected.
This view looks toward the Saturn-facing side of Titan. North on Titan is up and rotated 3 degrees to the left. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Oct. 29, 2016 using a spectral filter that preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 938 nanometers.
The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 545,000 miles (878,000 kilometers) from Titan. Image scale is 3 miles (5 kilometers) per pixel.
The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.