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January-February 2012

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Weather On Worlds Beyond

Somewhere above the orange fog, clouds boil into the upper troposphere. As they condense, rain falls to blanket the rolling hills below. Flash floods pour through dry riverbeds, rolling stones toward the lowlands. But this noonday shower falls in cryogenic temperatures and dim twilight. The rain is not water, but rather liquid methane. The monsoon season has returned to Saturn's moon Titan.

The Weather at Home and Nearby

If the physical universe has a goal, it is to keep things in balance. Dry regions on Earth pull humidity from moist areas in an effort to evenly distribute the water vapor; winds carry warm air to cooler regions. Our weather is a mechanism in constant search of equilibrium.

Michael Carroll is a science writer and astronomical artist. He has a painting on Mars—in digital form—on the Phoenix Lander. He lives in Colorado where there is nice weather and oxygen to breathe.

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