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Astronomers have used the Webb Space Telescope and the Keck Observatory in Hawaii to take infrared images days apart of the evolving clouds on the Saturn moon Titan.
The false-color infrared images to the right are those observations. From the press release:
As part of their investigation of Titan’s atmosphere and climate, Nixon’s team used JWST’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) to observe the moon during the first week of November. After seeing the clouds near Kraken Mare, the largest known liquid sea of methane on the surface of Titan, they immediately contacted the Keck Titan Observing Team to request follow-up observations.
“We were concerned that the clouds would be gone when we looked at Titan a day later with Keck, but to our delight there were clouds at the same positions on subsequent observing nights, looking like they had changed in shape,” said Imke de Pater, emeritus professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, who leads the Keck Titan Observing Team.
Using Keck Observatory’s second generation Near-Infrared Camera (NIRC2) in combination with the Keck II Telescope’s adaptive optics system, de Pater and her team observed one of Titan’s clouds rotating into and another cloud either dissipating or moving out of Earth’s field of view due to Titan’s rotation.
These images only increase my mourning for a Saturn orbiter. Since the end of Cassini’s mission in 2017, we have essentially been blind to the ringed planet and its many moons. These images, while producing excellent data, also illustrate well what we have lost.
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