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The James Webb Space Telescope saw clouds surrounding the sun on one of the moons.
In November, the space observatory turned its infrared look at Saturn’s largest moon Titan. The only moon in our solar system has a dense atmosphere – four times as dense as Earth’s.
Titania’s atmosphere is made up of nitrogen and methane, which gives it a hazy, orange appearance. This dense fog obscures visible light from reflecting off the moon’s surface, making it difficult to discern features.
The Webb Telescope observes the universe in infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye – on November 5, the telescope spotted a bright cloud in Titan’s northern hemisphere and soon after detected a second cloud in the atmosphere.
The largest cloud is located in the north polar region near the Kraken Sea, the largest known liquid sea of methane on the moon’s surface.
Titan has terrestrial bodies like liquids on the surface, but rivers, lakes and seas are made of liquid ethane and methane, which form clouds and rain from the sky. Researchers also believe Titania has an internal liquid water ocean.
“The detection of clouds is exciting because it confirms long-term predictions from computer models of the climate around Titan,” says cloud-like weather in the Northern Hemisphere during its late summer season, when the surface is heated by the Sun. Maryland, on the NASA Webb blog.
Nixon is also the principal investigator in the Webb observation program at Titan.
A team of astronomers reached out to Webb’s student observations to colleagues at the WM Keck Observatory to see in Hawaii, if the observations were followed, they could reveal if the clouds moved or changed shape.
“We were worried that the cloud would come out with Titan two days later when we looked at Keck, but to our delight the clouds were in the same places as they were in a changed shape,” said Imke de Pater, professor emeritus. in astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, and leader of the Keck Titanium Team, in a statement.
Atmospheric modeling experts helped the team determine whether two telescopes had taken observations of the weather on Titan.
Webb’s Near-Infrared spectrograph instrument was also able to collect data on Titan’s lower atmosphere, which cannot be seen based on observations. as Keck, due to the obstruction of the Earth’s air, in different wavelengths of infrared light.
The data, which is still being analyzed, could see deeper into Titan’s atmosphere and surface than the Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn and its moons for 13 years. Webb’s observations could also explain the cause of the bright light over Titan’s south pole.
The cloud was observed for a long time.
“We’ve been waiting for years to use Webb’s infrared vision to study Titan’s atmosphere, including its atmospheric weather patterns and gaseous composition, and even see through the white-knuckled surface,” Nixon said, referring to bright and dark objects. .
“Titania’s atmosphere is incredibly interesting, not only because of the methane clouds and weather, but also because of what it can tell us about Titania’s past and future – whether it even always had an atmosphere. We are absolutely delighted with the initial results.’
The team is conducting several observations of Titan in June, which may provide information about the gases in its atmosphere.
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