May 11

Cassini spacecraft and VLT see violent Saturn storm

Source: NASA News

False-color infrared image, obtained by Cassini spacecraft,
shows a powerful storm in Saturn's northern hemisphere.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft and a European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope (VLT) tracked the growth of a giant early-spring storm in Saturn's northern hemisphere so powerful it stretches around the entire planet. The rare storm has been wreaking havoc for months and shot plumes of gas high into the planet's atmosphere.

Cassini's radio and plasma wave science instrument first detected the large disturbance, and amateur astronomers tracked its emergence in December 2010. As it rapidly expanded, its core developed into a giant, powerful thunderstorm. The storm produced a 3,000-mile-wide (5,000-kilometer-wide) dark vortex, possibly similar to Jupiter's Great Red Spot, within the turbulent atmosphere.

The dramatic effects of the deep plumes disturbed areas high up in Saturn's usually stable stratosphere, generating regions of warm air that shone like bright "beacons" in the infrared. Details are published in this week's edition of Science Magazine. (read more)


NASA Cassini Mission
ESO Science Release eso1116
NASA Science News

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