As NASA's Cassini mission completed its flyby of Titan on Oct. 29-30, it captured a series of observations revealing detailed changes in the Saturn moon's atmosphere. Of particular interest, over the 11 hour period, high-altitude methane clouds could be seen appearing, dissipating and drifting at a speed of between 14 to 22 miles per hour.
Titan is a small world in its own right, with its surface covered in seas and lakes of liquid methane and ethane, which drive the moon's thick atmosphere's methane cycle. Akin to Earth's water cycle, Titan sees methane evaporate from its seas, condense in its atmosphere and then rain down onto its hydrocarbon-rich surface, creating rivers that can be seen carving out channels and dramatic valleys.
Within these new observations, bright, low-altitude clouds can be seen slowly move between the northern lakes of Neagh Lacus and Punga Mare, adding a more detailed view of atmospheric processes from the surface to high altitude.
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Observations assembled in this way allow mission scientists to create time-lapse videos, highlighting atmospheric dynamics while allowing them to distinguish between instrumental noise (like cosmic ray impacts to camera sensors) and real phenomena. In this short movie, it's the motion of methane clouds that take center stage: