March 24, 2009
A short but fierce "gullywasher" rainstorm of methane falls on the mountains surrounding the intriguing flows of Titan's Hotei Arcus in this artist's concept by Michael Carroll, based upon radar mapping data from the Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn.
Radar data show that the arc of Hotei is the boundary between rugged mountains to the south and east and a broad valley. Emerging from the mountains are several radar-bright channels that are likely now dry river beds that were carved by flowing methane due to rainfall. Within the valley, the channels end near lobate (blobby) flows some 100 to 200 meters (300 to 600 feet) thick, which some scientists think could be slushy ice lava from cryovolcanoes. These flows are portrayed here as the rough and elevated lighter tan areas in the foreground. It is possible that such phenomena could release methane from beneath the surface, helping to explain how Titan's atmosphere sustains its supply of methane.
The area depicted is located at approximately 28 degrees south latitude and 78 degrees west longitude.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The radar instrument was built by JPL and the Italian Space Agency, working with team members from the United States and several European countries.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/ .