It's pretty hard not to notice the gigantic looming arrow in this picture of Titan, Saturn's largest moon. The striking, chevron-shaped formation is roughly the size of Texas. And while it may look like an enormous HUMANS, LOOK HERE sign, recently published research by NASA scientists suggests that it's actually a gigantic storm making its way across the moon's equatorial region.
The image was snapped by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, which played an important role in chronicling the seasonal weather changes on Saturn's moon in a recent study, the findings of which are published in the latest issue of Nature Geoscience. Scientists believe that understanding climate patterns on Jupiter today may give us insight into the role that weather played in Earth's infancy.
According to UCLA's Jonathan L. Michell, who led the investigation, the high-contrast, stencil-like quality of the arrow is the result of unique, planetary-scale atmospheric waves that can give rise to intense precipitation events.
"These atmospheric waves are somewhat like the natural, resonant vibration of a wine glass," Mitchell said. "Individual clouds might ‘ring the bell' so to speak, and once the ringing starts, the clouds have to respond to that vibration."
Titan is believed to be the only other rocky body in the solar system that currently experiences rain, and its methane-rich atmosphere is thought to resemble that of a young Earth. So while this image may not provide any evidence of extraterrestrial space graffiti, it still goes a long way in helping us understand the earliest days of our own planet.