Science

NASA’s Cassini satellite images massive storm encircling Saturn

Massive storm on the surface of Saturn
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI
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It’s 800 times bigger than the surface area of the Earth, covers 4 billion square kilometres, and is so long it has etched a planet-wide scar around Saturn’s Northern Hemisphere.

The unnamed storm, pictured, was first discovered on December 5 2010 by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.  Images from the spacecraft show a massive disruption being produced by the storm and even shows the storm’s head catching up with its tail as it circles the planet.

Massive storm on the surface of Saturn
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Click here to view a larger version of the image or visit the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory website for more images.

According to Andrew Ingersoll, a member of the imaging team at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Saturn has entered a violent stage in its weather patterns, “Saturn is not like Earth and Jupiter, where storms are fairly frequent. Weather on Saturn appears to hum along placidly for years and then erupt violently. I’m excited we saw weather so spectacular on our watch.”

This is the most intense storm seen on the planet since the mission began and is 500 times larger than the previous record holder.  Cassini is recording over 10 lightening strikes a second on the planet and the storm is so intense the satellite has been struggling to record each individual strike, despite its millisecond resolution.

To fully record the event, NASA crowdsourced the storm observation by asking amateur astronomers to photograph the storm to help the Agency chart its growth while they analysed the initial images from Cassini.

NASA, the ESA, and the Italian Space Agency are working together on the Cassini-Huygens mission.

Via: Bad Astronomy

7 Comments

    1. @StephRWong It would make “The Day After Tomorrow” look like a documentary! NASA’s pictures are just amazing, and it’s such a pity the Shuttle Program is finishing.

  1. @StephRWong It would make “The Day After Tomorrow” look like a documentary! NASA’s pictures are just amazing, and it’s such a pity the Shuttle Program is finishing.

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Piers Dillon Scott
Piers Dillon-Scott is co-editor of The Sociable and writes about stuff he finds. He likes technology, media, and using the Oxford comma (because it just makes sense).