Observational Evidence for Summer Rainfall at Titan's North Pole

Rajani D. Dhingra, Jason W. Barnes, Robert H. Brown, Bonnie J. Burrati, Christophe Sotin, Phillip D. Nicholson, Kevin H. Baines, Roger N. Clark, Jason M. Soderblom, Ralf Jauman, Sebastien Rodriguez, Stéphane Le Mouélic, Elizabeth P. Turtle, Jason E. Perry, Valeria Cottini, Don E. Jennings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Methane rain on Saturn's moon Titan makes it the only place, other than Earth, where rain interacts with the surface. When and where that rain wets the surface changes seasonally in ways that remain poorly understood. Here we report the discovery of a bright ephemeral feature covering an area of 120,000 km 2 near Titan's north pole in observations from Cassini's near-infrared instrument, Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer on 7 June 2016. Based on the overall brightness, spectral characteristics, and geologic context, we attribute this new feature to specular reflections from a rain-wetted solid surface like those off of a sunlit wet sidewalk. The reported observation is the first documented rainfall event at Titan's north pole and heralds the arrival of the northern summer (through climatic evidence), which has been delayed relative to model predictions. This detection helps constrain Titan's seasonal change and shows that the “wet-sidewalk effect can be used to identify other rain events.”.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1205-1212
Number of pages8
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 16 2019


  • broad specular reflection
  • ephemeral feature on Titan's north pole
  • precipitation on Titan's north pole
  • rainfall on Titan
  • surface roughness
  • wet-sidewalk effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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