Enshrouded in a dense golden hydrocarbon mist, Saturn's largest moon Titan is a mysterious mesmerizing world in its own right. For centuries, Titan's veiled, frigid surface was completely camouflaged by this hazy golden-orange cloud-cover that hid its icy surface from the prying eyes of curious observers on Earth. However, this misty moisty moon-world was finally forced to show its mysterious face, long-hidden behind its obscuring veil of fog, when the Cassini Spacecraft's Huygens Probe landed on its surface in 2004, sending revealing pictures back to astronomers on Earth. In September 2018, astronomers announced that new data obtained from Cassini show what appear to be gigantic, roaring dust storms, raging through the equatorial regions of Titan. The discovery, announced in the September 24, 2018 issue of the journal Nature Geoscience, makes this oddball moon-world the third known object in our Solar System--in addition to Earth and Mars--where ferocious dust storms have been observed. The observations are now shedding new light on the fascinating and dynamic environment of Titan, which is the second largest moon in our Solar System, after Ganymede of Jupiter.
The findings of the two missions are presented in papers published on April 13, 2017, by planetary scientists with NASA's Cassini mission to Saturn and the venerable Hubble Space Telescope (HST). In one of the papers, Cassini scientists announced their discovery that a form of chemical energy life can feed on appears to exist on Enceladus. In the second paper, HST researchers report additional evidence of plumes erupting from Jupiter's moon, Europa, whose fascinating frozen crust of ice resembles a cracked eggshell. It has long been recognized by planetary scientists that beneath Europa's bizarre cracked shell of ice, there is a sloshing global ocean of liquid water.
The discovery of a moon can lead to a treasure chest filled with valuable information about the dwarf-planet system. This is because, by measuring the moon's orbit, astronomers can then go on to calculate a mass for the system and gain an important insight into its evolution.