We know the Planet ‘Saturn’ for its beautiful ‘ringed’ system in the universe. This planet is known for keeping a low profile unlike the planet Mars, which is frequently seen making headlines throughout the year. However, this bland and calm planet can sometimes prove to be a turbulent one. A recent storm took place in April 29, 2013 which grew into an atmospheric belt covering a billion square kilometers and it was 20 times violent than an average hurricane on Earth.
This view was seen through space-craft Cassini’s wide-angle camera. The central part of the storm is known as the ‘eye of the hurricane’ that appears in dark red. The yellowish green part around it is the jet stream, whereas the orange lines encompassing it are the low-lying clouds and the blue bands appearing on the edge are the Saturn’s rings.
Earth’s hurricanes do not span beyond 120 miles(200 km), whereas the eye of Saturn’s hurricane is an incredible 1,250 miles(2000 km) wide. The storm in Saturn is known for its spinning potential that is incredibly quick. The wind speeds in outer regions of the hurricane can reach up to 330 miles/hour (530 km/hour) The hurricanes on Earth tend to drift upwards, but as far as Saturn is concerned, the storm is locked in one place, as it has nowhere else to go.
Hurricanes are those tropical cyclones that form over water. However, Saturn does not contain water bodies to draw from; therefore the formation of hurricanes remains a mystery. Scientists estimate that hurricanes feed off the water vapor from the clouds around it. One thing that is similar between Earth and Saturn is that their hurricanes are formed in the northern hemisphere and tend to move in counter-clockwise direction.
These dizzy images of hurricane came as the spacecraft ‘Cassini’ took its shots from its heat-seeking infrared camera at a safe distance. Cassini spotted such a hurricane at the very first of its initial stages when it was launched in 2004, but then, it was blanketed in darkness.
Subsequently, NASA again spotted a hurricane in 2009, and could clearly see the storm in visible light, since NASA regulators had altered the Cassini’s orbits to have better views of the poles. They again spotted a hurricane storm taking place in 2013, which released lightning bolts at the speed of ten per second that is ten times more than the storms ever monitored in the history on our own planet.
Other than the gas giant like Saturn, the solar system also consists of planets that undergo massive hurricanes. Like Jupiter’s hurricane that has been intense since the very first time humans spotted it in the 1600s. Neptune, despite being a cold planet, has an aggressive hurricane possessing speeds of 1,300 miles/hour (2100 km/hour)!!! Uranus being a quiet planet is an abode of stormy places as well.
The sounds made by this storm are much like the static effect on an AM radio, when a terrestrial lighting strikes. Saturn is known to withhold its energy for long periods of time, say a decade or so, and then release it all at once, unlike Jupiter or Earth which undergo numerous storms at any one time.
The study of Saturn hurricanes can help the scientists understand the enormous storms and figure out how hurricanes originated on Earth. It can also serve as a natural lab for understanding Saturn’s physical behavior better.