NASA's Cassini spacecraft reveals giant dust storms on Saturn's moon Titan
The observation was obtained with Cassini's Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer, that explored Saturn and its moons between 2004 and 2017.
The spacecraft deliberately plunged into Saturn on September 15, 2017.
Titan is the only celestial body other than our planet where stable bodies of surface liquid are known to still exist, and primarily methane and ethane flow through its liquid reservoirs.
The weather on Titan varies from season to season and in particular, around the equinox -- the time when the Sun crosses Titan's equator -- massive clouds can form in tropical regions and cause powerful methane storms.
"From what we know about cloud formation on Titan, we can say that such methane clouds in this area and in this time of the year are not physically possible," said lead author Sebastien Rodriguez, an astronomer at the varsity.
"The convective methane clouds that can develop in this area and during this period of time would contain huge droplets and must be at a very high altitude -- much higher than the 6 miles (10 kilometers) that modeling tells us the new features are located," he added, in the paper described in the journal Nature Geoscience.
The existence of such strong winds generating massive dust storms implies that the underlying sand can be set in motion, too, and that the giant dunes covering Titan's equatorial regions are still active and continually changing.
The winds could be transporting the dust raised from the dunes across large distances, contributing to the global cycle of organic dust on Titan and causing similar effects to those that can be observed on Earth and Mars.