Saturn broods while a storm dissipates

By Phil Plait | April 30, 2012 5:48 pm

I’m in the middle of writing up a ton of stuff for the next couple of days, so let me just leave this here: a lovely image of Saturn and its moon Tethys and Enceladus, courtesy of Cassini:

[Click to encronosenate.]

Sigh. So pretty. Tethys is the moon to the left, just above the rings, and Enceladus is right next Saturn, just below the rings. Cassini was just 1° south of the ring plane when it snapped this shot, so they appear very thin. It’s approaching northern hemisphere summer for Saturn, though, so the Sun is shining down on the rings, and they cast a wide shadow on the planet’s southern hemisphere cloud tops.

I can’t help noticing the long, thin, white ribbon of clouds about 2/3 of the way up Saturn’s northern hemisphere. That looks very much like the remnants of the gigantic storm from late 2010 that was so long it actually wrapped all the way around the planet! If you think it’s crazy to think a storm could last that long, take note that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is at least 350 years old — it was discovered around 1665, and who knows how long it was around before then? And heck, Saturn itself suffered through a huge lightning storm for eight months.

Our gas giants don’t screw around. When they do something, they do it big.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Comments (5)

  1. Messier Tidy Upper

    By Jove Saturn that’s a great picture! ūüėČ

    Thanks Cassini & BA.

    Wonder how deep that storm extends into Saturn’s bottomless atmosphere which slowly turns to supercritical fluid? Wonder if it stirs up currents there?

    Saturn’s seasons are long too – 30 earth years to a Saturnean one works out to a long but hardly hot summer and other seasons too.

  2. Messier Tidy Upper

    so let me just leave this here: a lovely image of Saturn and its moon Tethys and Enceladus, courtesy of Cassini ..

    BA, I wouldn’t stop you leaving that even if I could which I can’t! ūüėČ

    Seriously, these Cassini images are always good and welcomed by me. :-)

    On reflection, I wonder if this Saturnean storm sank for a while and rose to the surface recently – like the Great Red Spot has been known to do?

    It’s approaching northern hemisphere summer for Saturn, though ..

    _____…For Saturn’s southern hemisphere, the autumnal leaves are changing colour and falling from their branches, wafting through the gentle hydrogen breezes of hundreds of kilometers windspeed and piling up in great bright deciduous drifts amid the driving helium rain .. Oh wait! ūüėČ

    Ah Saturnean spring, season of mists and un-mellow storminess! (With apologies to Yeats or was it Keats, one famous English or Irish poet anyhow.)

    Seriously, I also wonder how Saturn’s seasons affect any possible Enceladese or Titanian or other Saturnean life forms that may exist – how much difference in temperature and consitions would there be here?

  3. Messier Tidy Upper

    Hope its okay with you BA and netiquette~wise if I link this great item here :

    On the same Saturnean storm via Ethan Siegel’s ‘Starts with a Bang’ blog? Apologies and please let me know if not.

    Great map and more info there which I hope y’all enjoy. :-)


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