Saturn’s moon Titan has a polar vortex that last 22 years

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Even the Night King would be jealous of a winter, which lasts this long.

According to a new study, the polar vortex on Saturn’s moon, Titan, may be the last “three-fourth of a Titan year, or about 22 earth years.”

The research, published in the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters, details about the findings of NASA’s Cassini spacecraft when it arrived at the Saturn system in 2004. The spacecraft, which is deliberately immersed in Saturn’s atmosphere in September 2017, found a huge cowl of the cold air over the poles in the winter.


“The earth cools in the winter due to lack of sunlight over the poles, but you do not get the added effect of additional gases, while on Titan, you have these weird gases in there that’s making the process even more extreme than it would otherwise be,” the study’s lead author, Nick Teanby, a planetary scientist at the University of Bristol, said in a statement.

“Spectra measured by Cassini’s infrared spectrometer show that Titan winter poles are much colder and significantly more enriched in the trace gas species than more equatorial regions,” the authors wrote in the study, clear language an overview.

She continues: “These observations can be explained by the presence of the winter polar vortices, where sinking air has enriched the composition of the lower atmosphere and insulation, by a strong vortex of wind can improved cooling in the winter darkness. The coldest temperatures and the most extreme trace gas concentrations were seen at Titan’s southern pole during the beginning of the winter and the vortex.”

A full year on Titan lasts 29.46 earth years.

This is the near-infrared, color view from Cassini shows the sun glinting off of Titan’s north polar seas. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. Arizona/Univ. Idaho)

Although Titan’s atmosphere is not exactly like the Earth — the presence of methane could be a factor in the question of whether it is capable of life — it has other agreements, such as nitrogen.

“Why it’s so interesting is that Titan is like a mini Earth with a really exotic and cold atmosphere that we can use to test climate models and things like that,” Teanby continued. “That’s the big picture as to why we suffer from, but I think the real motivation is that it is really cool to try these things.”

The prospects of life?

Titan is still a source of fascination for researchers, with some even suggesting that it might live.

In January, researchers showed that fresh rainfall had been spotted on Titan in 2016, as a result of a reflective function in the neighborhood of the north pole of the moon.

In February 2018, NASA found traces of vinyl cyanide in the atmosphere and in September, dust storms were spotted on Titan for the first time ever, raising the prospect of the storms could be a precursor to extraterrestrial life on the planet.

It is possible the storms are composed of organic molecules,” NASA said, by the chemistry of the atmosphere. Titan’s atmosphere is composed of 98.4% nitrogen, 1.6% methane, and 0.1-0.2% hydrogen.


However, once the organic molecules that are large enough, they eventually fall to Titan’s surface and may play a role in the dust storms.

The prevalence of dust storms and strong winds on Titan implies that the underlying sand could be moved and that the “huge dunes” that cover the moon’s equatorial regions are constantly changing and still active.


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