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Sci-Tech

Clouds return to Saturn's moon Titan in ethereal NASA image

Saturn's mysterious moon Titan welcomes back some cloud cover after a long period of clear skies.

Welcome back to Titan, clouds.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

We need a celestial Sherlock Holmes on the Case of the Missing Clouds. Saturn's massive moon Titan lost its northern cloud cover from around 2010 to 2014. NASA's Cassini spacecraft has been keeping an eye out for fresh cloud activity on Titan. NASA released an image Tuesday showing wispy clouds hovering over the moon's hydrocarbon lakes.

According to NASA, "Cassini scientists noted a decrease in clouds everywhere on Titan after a large storm in 2010, and expected clouds to return sooner, based on computer models of Titan's atmosphere." NASA previously posted a video showing the thin methane clouds in motion.

Cassini snapped the image in late October 2016. Scientists had expected more clouds by now and are looking at possible connections between the moon's cloud formations and the changing seasons as Titan moves through its version of summer.

Titan is a fascinating place. It's also home to a mysterious vanishing and reappearing island and very still methane lakes. Saturn has dozens of moons, but Titan is the largest and has been one of the most fascinating subjects of the Cassini mission.

Cassini is due to end its journey by plunging into Saturn's atmosphere later this year, but it should still have time to peek at Titan and its clouds again before burning up during its mission finale.