ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
And now, a weather report for Saturn's largest moon, Titan. And if you're headed that way, grab an umbrella. Space meteorologists in California are reporting widespread morning drizzle. Here's NPR's Joe Palca.
JOE PALCA: Astronomers have known for sometime that there are methane clouds scattered across Titan. Now, using two Earth-based telescopes, one in Hawaii and the other in Chile, astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley report these clouds produce a kind of methane drizzle. The inclement weather is mostly detectable near the equator on the Titan continent called Xanadu. The researchers proposed that prevailing easterly winds may push moist air up the side of mountains on Xanadu, cooling the air and causing the methane to condense as droplets.
Thankfully for any tourist industry that might emerge for Titan, the drizzle usually ends by afternoon. The new Titan weather information appears on the online edition of the journal Science.
In other news from Titan this week, astronomers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena report the Cassini spacecraft has found three new lakes near Titan's south pole. These are the first lakes found near the south pole, although not the first lake found on Titan. It will take specialized swimming costumes to enjoy a dip in these lakes.
Scientists believe all the lakes on Titan are filled with a mixture of liquid methane and liquate ethane. And, by the way, next week marks the 10th anniversary of Cassini's launch into space. The spacecraft launched from Florida on October 15th 1997, and went into orbit around Saturn in 2004. It spent the past three studying the planet and its moons.
Joe Palca, NPR News, Washington.