A storm wraps around Saturn

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
July 6 2011 12:48 PM

A storm wraps around Saturn

Last year, a giant storm erupted in Saturn's northern hemisphere. It grew in size and length as Saturn's mighty winds whipped it around the planet. The Cassini spacecraft took this gorgeous picture of it in late February, when the storm was three months old:

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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Saturn doesn't do anything small, does it? [Click to enchronosenate.]

You can see the storm has actually wound entirely around the planet; just below the head on the left you can see light colored clouds that are actually from the tail of the storm that's wrapped all the way around Saturn. Given Saturn's diameter of about 120,000 km (72,000 miles) and the latitude of the storm (call it 45°), this monster system must be well over 300,000 km (180,000 miles) in length! That's three-quarters of the way from the Earth to the Moon.

Yegads.

The storm is blasting out tons of radio noise, a sure sign that lightning must be dancing prodigiously beneath those clouds. The violence and raw power of this storm are amazing to ponder. Note that just the north/south extent of the storm is roughly the size of Earth.

And hmmmm. I guess we don't name storms on other planets as we do on our home world. But if we did, may I suggest... Ouroboros?

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI



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