Massive Storm on Saturn Captured By Cassini Spacecraft

Massive Storm on Saturn Captured By Cassini Spacecraft

Massive Storm on Saturn Captured By Cassini Spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI.

Scientists have gathered images and sound files that demonstrate astounding details of a massive storm on Saturn. The storm is eight times larger than the surface of Earth. The Cassini spacecraft first reported signs of the storm in December of 2010. It is currently occurring at 35 degrees north latitude on the planet. The images captured by the powerful cameras on the spacecraft show that the storm wraps around the entire planet. This would mean it covers about 1.5 billion square miles of atmosphere.

This new storm is 500 times bigger than any previously recorded activity captured by Cassini. The sounds of lightening strikes captured by sound recorders were analyzed to help scientists understand exactly how big the storm really is. The data collected from both the plasma wave recorder and the radio show that lightening flashed 10 times as frequently as any other storm recorded on Saturn since Cassini first arrived in 2004.

This new data shows that storms are rare and violent in Saturn’s atmosphere. Earth and Jupiter both have storms frequently and at lower intensities due to the atmospheric makeup. Saturn has placid weather for years at a time, but when a storm does erupt it is massive and very intense. Scientists were surprised to be able to capture such an unusual occurrence while Cassini is still positioned so close to the planet.

At its peak more than 10 flashes of lightening per second was recorded. Despite the high resolution of the recording instruments, scientists had trouble telling each flash apart due to the overwhelming speed of the storm. The sound files capture a period of the storm that was slightly less intense, leaving more noticeable gaps between lightening strikes. This was the 10th lightening storm captured by Cassini since it first began recording activity on Saturn.


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