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Spotting Saturn's Northern Storm
Spotting Saturn's Northern Storm (click to enlarge)

Spotting Saturn's Northern Storm
Date: 24 Dec 2010

NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this composite near-true-color view of a huge storm churning through the atmosphere in Saturn's northern hemisphere.

This storm is the largest and most intense observed on Saturn by NASA's Voyager or Cassini spacecraft. As scientists tracked this storm over several months, they have found it covers 500 times the area of the biggest of the southern hemisphere storms observed earlier in the Cassini mission. The shadow cast by Saturn's rings has a strong seasonal effect, and it is possible that the switch to powerful storms now being located in the northern hemisphere is related to the change of seasons after the planet's August 2009 equinox.

In an image captured 5 Dec. 2010, scientists saw a small white spot with a size of about 800 miles (1,300 km) north-to-south and 1,600 miles (2,500 km) east-to-west. In this view, taken on 24 Dec.2010, the storm has grown to a north-to-south, or latitudinal, extent of about 6,000 miles (10,000 km) three weeks after the storm started. The main part of the storm has an east-to-west, or longitudinal, extent of about 11,000 miles (17,000 km) in this view. Other images taken at the same time show the tail extending almost one-third of the way around the planet -- a distance of 62,000 miles (100,000 km).

This view looks toward the southern, unilluminated side of the rings from just below the ring plane.

Last Update 16 Dec 2011 (AMB)

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

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Last Updated: 21 Dec 2011