Mystery behind Saturn`s gigantic storm revealed

Last Updated: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - 15:35

Washington: Scientists have for the very first time managed to explain the behaviour of Saturn`s storms through the analysis of images sent from the Cassini space probe belonging to NASA and ESA, as well as the computer models of the storms and the examination of the clouds therein.

The discovery was made by lead author Enrique Garcia Melendo, researcher at the Fundacio Observatori Esteve Duran - Institut de Ciencies de l`Espai, of Catalonia.\

Approximately once every Saturnian year - equivalent to 30 Earth years - an enormous storm is produced on the ringed planet and which affects the aspect of its atmosphere on a global scale.

These gigantic storms are known as Great White Spots, due to the appearance they have on the atmosphere of the planet.

The first observation of one of these was made in 1876; the Great White Spot of 2010 was the sixth one to be observed.

On this occasion the Cassini space vehicle was able to obtain very high resolution images of this great meteorological structure.

The storm initiated as a small brilliant white cloud in the middle latitudes of the northern hemisphere of the planet, and grew rapidly and remained active for more than seven months.

Over this time an amalgam of white clouds was generated which expanded to form a cloudy and turbulent ring with a surface area of thousands of millions of square kilometres.

Two year age the Planetary Sciences Group of the University of the Basque Country presented a first study of the storm and which was published on the front cover of Nature on the 7th of July, 2011.

Now, with this new research, the hidden secrets of the phenomenon have been revealed, studying in detail the "head" and the "focus" of the Great White Spot.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Geosciences.


First Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - 13:21

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