Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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The Dunes of Titan

Space exploration mavens and science fiction writers may be interested in this new analysis of Titan's dunes. Just when you think you can predict Nature, she pulls a fast one...

Cassini Maps Global Pattern of Titan's Dunes
Titan's vast dune fields, which may act like weather vanes to determine general wind direction on Saturn's biggest moon, have been mapped by scientists who compiled four years of radar data collected by the Cassini spacecraft. 

Titan's rippled dunes are generally oriented east-west. Surprisingly, their orientation and characteristics indicate that near the surface, Titan's winds blow toward the east instead of toward the west. This means that Titan's surface winds blow opposite the direction suggested by previous global circulation models of Titan. 

"At Titan there are very few clouds, so determining which way the wind blows is not an easy thing, but by tracking the direction in which Titan's sand dunes form, we get some insight into the global wind pattern," says Ralph Lorenz, Cassini radar scientist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. "Think of the dunes sort of like a weather vane, pointing us to the direction the winds are blowing." A paper based on these findings appeared in the Feb. 11 issue of Geophysical Research Letters. 
Tags: science fiction, space exploration
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