Technology Weird Cyanide Ice Clouds Explained on Saturn’s Moon

10:08  22 november  2017
10:08  22 november  2017 Source:   Newsweek

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This view of Saturn ' s largest moon , Titan, is among the last images the Cassini spacecraft sent to Earth before it plunged into the giant Previously, CIRS data helped identify hydrogen cyanide ice in clouds over Titan's south pole, as well as other toxic chemicals in the moon 's stratosphere.

Weird News. There's a toxic ice cloud lurking over Saturn ' s moon Titan. The cloud , discovered by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, consists of hydrogen cyanide and benzene, according to a statement from the agency.

This Nov. 13, 2015 composite image made available by NASA shows an infrared view of Saturn's moon, Titan, as seen by the Cassini spacecraft.© Associated Press This Nov. 13, 2015 composite image made available by NASA shows an infrared view of Saturn's moon, Titan, as seen by the Cassini spacecraft. There's a giant icy cloud of, among other chemicals, cyanide looming high above the south pole of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. And if that's not bad enough, the cloud's birth caused a cold snap that lasted four long years, according to a new paper published in the journal Nature Communications.

"This effect is so far unique in the solar system and is only possible because of Titan's exotic atmospheric chemistry," lead author Nick Teanby, a planetary scientist at the University of Bristol in the U.K., said in a press release. However, just because it's the first time we've seen the phenomenon doesn't mean it will be the last—Teanby added that a similar process could play out on exoplanets beyond our solar system.

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Now, after analyzing two more years of data from Cassini, the researchers found this cloud is made of cyanide — specifically, " ice particles of hydrogen cyanide , or 'blauwzuur,' blue acid, as it's known in the Netherlands Editor's Recommendations. Titan, Saturn ' s Largest Moon , Explained (Infographic).

NASA astronomers, who were with NASA Cassini mission, have found toxic hybrid ice cloud over the south pole of Titan, the largest moon of the ringed planet Saturn . They have come to a conclusion that the ice cloud is made of organic molecule hydrogen cyanide and the large

Titan, as Saturn's largest moon, has fascinated scientists ever since Cassini, the spacecraft that recently met its end in Saturn's atmosphere plopped a lander named Huygens onto the moon in January 2005. That mission let scientists see underneath the moon's thick, planet-like atmosphere, a feature no other moon in our solar system can boast.

But wanting to peek below an atmosphere doesn't negate scientists' interest in studying the atmosphere itself, and particularly not when they started seeing something very strange in 2012: a sharp cooling at the moon's south pole where they had expected to see a hotspot forming.

The plot thickened when they realized that high-altitude clouds above the pole were full of hydrogen cyanide and benzene, neither of which you want to encounter. Hydrogen cyanide "can be rapidly fatal," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention politely explains, and has been used as a chemical weapon. Benzene is only slightly less nasty: it's flammable and can cause cancer.

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Saturn ’ s largest moon , Titan, has been one of the most studied things in space for quite some time. Prior to this current ice cloud investigation, CIRS has also helped identify hydrogen cyanide ice in clouds over Titan’s south pole and What Does Quantum Physics Explain About Your Identity?

Previously, CIRS data helped identify hydrogen cyanide ice in clouds over Titan’ s south pole, as well as other toxic chemicals in the moon ’ s stratosphere. Shortly after its arrival at Saturn , Cassini found evidence of this phenomenon at Titan’ s north pole.

Scientists couldn't figure out how those toxic clouds had formed, particularly in a place where there should have been a heat wave. In the new paper, Teanby and his colleagues calculate that they could have been formed by a combination of long-wave radiative cooling and seasonally reduced exposure to sunlight forming a special type of atmospheric system called a polar vortex. Once gases are trapped in that vortex, it's easier for them to stay isolated and therefore stay cold.

The temperatures at Titan's south pole have since rebounded, with the winter fading away last year after the vortex fell apart. But without the trusty Cassini spacecraft taking measurements, scientists may not be able to follow whether the phenomenon returns.

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