This giant storm on Saturn looks both stunning and terrifying

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
A false-color image of a giant hurricane-like storm on Saturn.

It seems like Saturn's atmosphere has brewed up a literal version of the phrase “a perfect storm,” judging from these images from a NASA spacecraft.

NASA’s Cassini probe took images of an enormous “hurricane” sweeping across the planet's north pole. Using false-color images, scientists were able to deduce that the eye of the hurricane alone is around 1,250 miles wide. To put that in perspective, that’s 20 times larger than a typical hurricane here on Earth.

Additionally, the clouds on the edge of the hurricane (colored green in the image above) move at 330 mph, with the winds at the eye of the storm blowing four times faster than what's considered hurricane force here on Earth (hurricane-force winds are 74 miles per hour or higher). by comparison, a category five hurricane—the strongest hurricanes we see here on Earth—have maximum sustained wind speeds of at least 157 miles per hour.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
The storm in a true-color photograph. Yikes. (Click for larger.)

Despite these wind speeds, the hurricane appears to be permanently locked on the north pole, though NASA scientists think this could be because it has nowhere left to go.

Scientists find this particulat Saturn storm interesting due to the lack of water on the planet. Hurricanes on Earth feed off ocean water, but there is no water near this storm. The images could tell us more about how Saturn storms like this use minimal water vapor, yet still generate, which in turn may be able to help scientists learn more about similar storms on Earth.

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