Astronaut Evans



"From what we know about cloud formation on Titan, we can say that such methane clouds in this area and in this time of year are not physically possible. 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 that modeling tells us the new features are located," Dr. Rodriguez explained in the September 24, 2018 JPL Press Release. Dr. Porco further believes that Enceladus's orbit could have been much more eccentric in the past. The greater the eccentricity, the greater the tidal squeezing, and the resulting structural variations produce heat. In this case, the heat would have been saved inside the icy moon, melting some of the ice to replenish the liquid water sea. Dr. Porco continued to explain that "(T)he tidal flexing occurring now is not enough to account for all the heat presently coming out of Enceladus. One way out of this dilemma is to assume that some of the heat observed today was generated and stored internally in the past... (N)ow that the orbit's eccentricity has lessened, the heat emanating from the interior is a combination of heat produced today and in the past." Organic dust forms when organic molecules, resulting from the interaction of sunlight with methane, grow large enough to tumble down to the surface of Titan. Dr. Roderiguez continued to explain that, even though this is the first-ever observation of a dust storm on Titan, the discovery is not especially surprising.