Monster Storm Rearranges Saturn Before Our Eyes
The best views yet of a giant, once-in-a-generation storm on Saturn are now emerging, revealing how such tempests disrupt the ringed planet and create hot spots and cold vortexes, researchers say.
These findings could shed new light on the behavior of giant planets orbiting both alien stars and our sun. [Photo of Saturn’s huge storm]
The atmosphere of Saturn normally appears calm, but about once per Saturn year — equal to about 30 Earth years — the giant world is gripped by a titanic storm as spring comes to its northern hemisphere. The current monster Saturn storm erupted last Dec. 5.
“This disturbance in the northern hemisphere of Saturn has created a gigantic, violent and complex eruption of bright cloud material, which has spread to encircle the entire planet,” said researcher Leigh Fletcher, a planetary scientist at the University of Oxford in England.
It took less than a month for the storm to radically disrupt the temperature, winds and composition of the atmosphere in an area 87,000 miles (140,000 kilometers) wide, between 20 and 50 degrees north. [Photos: Rings and Moons of Saturn]