The latest reports from the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft indicate that the violent methane storms or the surface winds of Titan blow in the west direction, causing miles long and hundred yards high surface dunes point to the east direction. Titan, the largest moon of Saturn is one of the only places to have Earth-like conditions in our entire solar system. These winds are almost similar to the trade winds that blow on the earth.
Titan has a hazy, thick atmosphere with its surface canvas revealing dunes, lakes, rivers and mountains almost similar to the earth’s landscaping. The change in the direction of the surface dunes was always thought to be due to the gravitational tides or other land features and wind dynamics of Saturn. However, the eastward slanting of the dunes was not properly explained by such theories.
The violent methane storms occur in the high dense atmosphere of the Titan where the winds blow in the east direction. This, according to Benjamin Charnay, the astronomer at the University of Washington and also one of the co-authors of a paper published in Nature Geoscience journal can be the probable explanation.
Atmosphere of Titan
Many scientists call the atmosphere on Titan as the chemical processing factory because it is the only moon in the entire solar system having a dense atmosphere. However, the size of Titan is comparatively smaller than the earth and hence its gravitational pull is considerably less.
Due to this, the gravity on Titan cannot hold the gaseous atmosphere around it tightly. This causes the atmosphere to move on to a higher altitude, at least ten times higher than that of the earth.
The atmosphere of Titan comprises of 95 percent nitrogen, 5 percent methane and very small amounts of compounds rich in carbon. Since Saturn is nine times farther from the Sun than the Earth, the daytime on Titan or Saturn looks like twilight with very weak illumination.