I’m Freezin’ in the Rain …

From space.com comes an article about the modeling of weather systems on the Saturnian moon Titan:

Scientists have used models to help predict Earth’s weather for years, but now astronomers are using similar simulations to forecast rain at a more distant locale: Saturn’s biggest moon Titan. Probes sent to Titan have revealed that methane flows in a cycle there in much the same way [as Earth’s water cycle].

Big-Assed Methane Cloud on Titan (extends down to 60 deg. lat.)

To better understand the weather and climate of Titan, scientists created 3D atmospheric simulations of its methane cycle based on circulation models originally designed for Earth.

Upcoming space- and ground-based observations of Titan might confirm or reject predictions made by these models. For instance, “we predict that intense methane clouds should appear in Titan’s north polar region within about two years,” Schneider said. “We also predict that lake levels will rise in the northern hemisphere over the next 15 years, and we give estimates of how much methane the lakes will gain.”

There are two things I think are cool about seeing an article like this.  First, we currently have the ability to visit – albeit by proxy – the other worlds of our solar system and learn volumes about their composition and behavior.  Second, it’s a wonderful example of the scientific method in action.  First, observations are made about Titan and its weather systems.  A hypothesis is made about its behavior and similarities with Earth’s, even though the medium is different (methane vs. water).  We have a computer model in place using Earth as a basis, and it has made some predictions about what we should expect from Titan within a few years.

Now we wait.  If we’re wrong, the hypothesis (that the methane cycle on Titan behaves the way we think it does) will have been falsified.  We move on from there with a new hypothesis and subsequent computer model.  If we’re right, the hypothesis is confirmed, at least for the relevant predictions.  There could be other phenomena or situations in which we may realize the model falls short, and we need to revise it in light of this new data.  In any case, it’s exciting to witness.

As always, there’s more on the web site; this is just a quick (edited) snippet to point it out and get you over there.

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This entry was posted in More Tests of Faith, Science Marches On and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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