Posts Tagged ‘saturn’

Giant storms on Saturn: Nasa captures incredible view of ‘rose’ hurricane 20 times bigger than any on Earth

  • Hurricane’s eye is about 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) wide, 20 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth
  • Hurricane swirls inside a large, mysterious, six-sided weather pattern known as the hexagon


PUBLISHED: 17:40 GMT, 29 April 2013 | UPDATED: 18:49 GMT, 29 April 2013

At first glance, it resembles a giant rose, surrounded by green foliage.

However, in fact this is a huge, violent storm of the surface of Saturn – and one that has been brewing for years

In high-resolution pictures and video, scientists say the hurricane’s eye is about 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) wide, 20 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth.

The spinning vortex of Saturn's north polar storm The spinning vortex of Saturn’s north polar storm resembles a deep red rose of giant proportions surrounded by green foliage in this false-color image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Measurements have sized the eye at a staggering 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) across with cloud speeds as fast as 330 miles per hour (150 meters per second).
Nasa’s Cassini spacecraft has provided scientists the first close-up, visible-light views of a behemoth hurricane swirling around Saturn’s north pole.

Thin, bright clouds at the outer edge of the hurricane are traveling 330 mph(150 meters per second). The hurricane swirls inside a large, mysterious, six-sided weather pattern known as the hexagon.

‘We did a double take when we saw this vortex because it looks so much like a hurricane on Earth,’ said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

‘But there it is at Saturn, on a much larger scale, and it is somehow getting by on the small amounts of water vapor in Saturn’s hydrogen atmosphere.’

Scientists will be studying the hurricane to gain insight into hurricanes on Earth, which feed off warm ocean water.

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NASA’s Cassini Sees Burp at Saturn After Large Storm

November 16, 2012 Leave a comment

These red, orange and green clouds (false color) in Saturn's northern hemisphere indicate the tail end of a  massive storm

These red, orange and green clouds (false color) in Saturn’s northern hemisphere indicate the tail end of a massive storm that started in December 2010. Even after visible signs of the storm started to fade, infrared measurements continued to reveal powerful effects at work in Saturn’s stratosphere. Image credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
› Full image and caption

October 25, 2012

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has tracked the aftermath of a rare massive storm on Saturn. Data reveal record-setting disturbances in the planet’s upper atmosphere long after the visible signs of the storm abated, in addition to an indication the storm was more forceful than scientists previously thought.

Data from Cassini’s composite infrared spectrometer (CIRS) instrument revealed the storm’s powerful discharge sent the temperature in Saturn’s stratosphere soaring 150 degrees Fahrenheit (83 kelvins) above normal. At the same time, researchers at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Md., detected a huge increase in the amount of ethylene gas, the origin of which is a mystery. Ethylene, an odorless, colorless gas, isn’t typically observed on Saturn. On Earth, it is created by natural and man-made sources.

Goddard scientists describe the unprecedented belch of energy in a paper to be published in the Nov. 20 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

“This temperature spike is so extreme it’s almost unbelievable, especially in this part of Saturn’s atmosphere, which typically is very stable,” said Brigette Hesman, the study’s lead author and a University of Maryland scientist who works at Goddard. “To get a temperature change of the same scale on Earth, you’d be going from the depths of winter in Fairbanks, Alaska, to the height of summer in the Mojave Desert.”

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Saturn and Its Largest Moon Reflect Their True Colors

September 3, 2012 Leave a comment

ScienceDaily (Aug. 29, 2012) — Posing for portraits for NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, Saturn and its largest moon, Titan, show spectacular colors in a quartet of images being released today. One image captures the changing hues of Saturn’s northern and southern hemispheres as they pass from one season to the next.

Colorful Colossuses and Changing Hues: A giant of a moon appears before a giant of a planet undergoing seasonal changes in this natural color view of Titan and Saturn from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

A wide-angle view in today’s package captures Titan passing in front of Saturn, as well as the planet’s changing colors. Upon Cassini’s arrival at Saturn eight years ago, Saturn’s northern winter hemisphere was an azure blue. Now that winter is encroaching on the planet’s southern hemisphere and summer on the north, the color scheme is reversing: blue is tinting the southern atmosphere and is fading from the north.

The other three images depict the newly discovered south polar vortex in the atmosphere of Titan, reported recently by Cassini scientists. Cassini’s visible-light cameras have seen a concentration of yellowish haze in the detached haze layer at the south pole of Titan since at least March 27. Cassini’s visual and infrared mapping spectrometer spotted the massing of clouds around the south pole as early as May 22 in infrared wavelengths. After a June 27 flyby of the moon, Cassini released a dramatic image and movie showing the vortex rotating faster than the moon’s rotation period. The four images being released today were acquired in May, June and July of 2012.

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ESPL: Dances of the Planets

June 19, 2012 2 comments

June 19, 2012

The planets in the heavens move in exquisite orbital patterns, dancing to the Music of the Cosmos.  There is more mathematical and geometric harmony than we realize.   The idea for this article is from a book Larry Pesavento shared with me.  The book, ‘A Little Book of Coincidence‘ by John Martineau, illustrates the orbital patterns and several of their geometrical relationships.  .

Take the orbits of any two planets and draw a line between the two planet positions every few days.  Because the inner planet orbits faster than the outer planet, interesting patterns evolve.  Each planetary pairing has its own unique dance rhythm.  For example, the Earth-Venus dance returns to the original starting position after eight Earth years.  Eight Earth years equals thirteen Venus years.  Note that 8 and 13 are members of the Fibonacci number series.

  • Earth:     8 years * 365.256 days/year  =  2,922.05 days                   
  • Venus:  13 years * 224.701 days/year  =  2,921.11 days (ie. 99.9%)

Watching the Earth-Venus dance for eight years creates this beautiful five-petal flower with the Sun at the center.  (5 is another Fibonacci number.)

Another intriguing fact is the ratio between the Earth’s outer orbit and Venus’s inner orbit is given by a square.

In the following dance patterns, the planet pairing is given and the number of orbits of the outer planet.  Enjoy these beautiful patterns.

Let me share with you other facts about cosmic harmony.  The radius of the Moon compared to the Earth is three to eleven, ie. 3:11.

  • Radius of Moon = 1,080 miles =  3 x 360
  • Radius of Earth  = 3,960 miles = 11 x 360 = 33 x 1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5
  • Radius of Earth plus Radius of Moon = 5,040 miles = 1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5 x 6 x 7 = 7 x 8 x 9 x 10

The ratio 3:11 is 27.3 percent, and the orbit of the Moon takes 27.3 days.  27.3 days is also the average rotation period of a sunspot.  The closest : farthest distance ratio that Venus and Mars each experiences in the Mars-Venus dance is incredibly 3:11.  The Earth orbits between them.

The sizes of the Moon and the Earth ‘Square the Circle’ as shown in this illustration, which is drawn to scale.  The perimeters of the dotted square and the dotted circle are the same length.

The perimeter of the dotted red square is 4 x Earth’s diameter = 4 x 7,920 miles = 31,680 miles.  
The circumference of the dotted blue circle is 2 pi x radius = 2 x 3.142 x 5040 miles = 31,667 miles.  (ie. 99.9%)

Article by Howard Arrington

Cassini sees tropical lakes on Saturn moon

June 15, 2012
Scientists had thought that Titan simply had extensive dunes at the equator and lakes at the poles, but now they know that Titan is more complex than previously thought.
by Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
Saturn’s rings lie in the distance as the Cassini spacecraft looks toward Titan and its dark region called Shangri-La, east of the landing site of the Huygens Probe. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has spied long-standing methane lakes, or puddles, in the “tropics” of Saturn’s moon Titan. One of the tropical lakes appears to be about half the size of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, with a depth of at least 3 feet (1 meter).The result, which is a new analysis of Cassini data, is unexpected because models had assumed the long-standing bodies of liquid would only exist at the poles.

Where could the liquid for these lakes come from? “A likely supplier is an underground aquifer,” said Caitlin Griffith from the University of Arizona in Tucson. “In essence, Titan may have oases.”

Understanding how lakes or wetlands form on Titan helps scientists learn about the moon’s weather. Like Earth’s hydrological cycle, Titan has a “methane cycle,” with methane rather than water circulating. In Titan’s atmosphere, ultraviolet light breaks apart methane, initiating a chain of complicated organic chemical reactions. But existing models haven’t been able to account for the abundant supply of methane.

“An aquifer could explain one of the puzzling questions about the existence of methane, which is continually depleted,” Griffith said. “Methane is a progenitor of Titan’s organic chemistry, which likely produces interesting molecules like amino acids, the building blocks of life.”

Global circulation models of Titan have theorized that liquid methane in the moon’s equatorial region evaporates and is carried by wind to the north and south poles, where cooler temperatures cause methane to condense. When it falls to the surface, it forms the polar lakes. On Earth, water is similarly transported by the circulation, yet the oceans also transport water, thereby countering the atmospheric effects.

The latest results come from Cassini’s visual and infrared mapping spectrometer, which detected the dark areas in the tropical region known as Shangri-La, near the spot where the European Space Agency’s Huygens probe landed in 2005. When Huygens landed, the heat of the probe’s lamp vaporized some methane from the ground, indicating it had landed in a damp area.

Areas appear dark to the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer when liquid ethane or methane is present. Some regions could be ankle-deep puddles. Cassini’s radar mapper has seen lakes in the polar region but hasn’t detected any lakes at low latitudes.

The tropical lakes detected by the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer have remained since 2004. Only once has rain been detected falling and evaporating in the equatorial regions, and only during the recent expected rainy season. Scientists therefore deduce that the lakes could not be substantively replenished by rain.

“We had thought that Titan simply had extensive dunes at the equator and lakes at the poles, but now we know that Titan is more complex than we previously thought,” said Linda Spilker from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Cassini still has multiple opportunities to fly by this moon going forward, so we can’t wait to see how the details of this story fill out.”

NASA’s Cassini Finds Saturn’s Moon Phoebe Has Planet-Like Qualities

April 27, 2012 12:58 PM EDT


Saturn’s moon Phoebe(Photo: NASA)

Data from NASA‘s Cassini mission reveal Saturn’s moon Phoebe has more planet-like qualities than previously thought.

Scientists had their first close-up look at Phoebe when Cassini began exploring the Saturn system in 2004. Using data from multiple spacecraft instruments and a computer model of the moon’s chemistry, geophysics and geology, scientists found Phoebe was a so-called planetesimal, or remnant planetary building block. The findings appear in the April issue of the Journal Icarus.

“Unlike primitive bodies such as comets, Phoebe appears to have actively evolved for a time before it stalled out,” said Julie Castillo-Rogez, a planetary scientist at NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. “Objects like Phoebe are thought to have condensed very quickly. Hence, they represent building blocks of planets. They give scientists clues about what conditions were like around the time of the birth of giant planets and their moons”

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Cassini Flies Right By Saturn’s Moon Enceladus, Snapping New Up-Close Pics

By Clay Dillow Posted 04.17.2012 at 3:43 pm

Enceladus’s Horizon NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

The Cassini spacecraft has been busy over this past week, making close flybys of both Enceladus and and Tethys, two of Saturn’s moons. And we’re not using “close” as a relative term here. Cassini skimmed Enceladus in such proximity that it was literally able to taste the plume of water ice, vapor, and other organic compounds spewing from the moon’s south polar region.

That flyby was at an altitude of just 46 miles above Enceladus’s surface, a hair’s breadth as these sorts of things go. Unfortunately for us, Baghdad Sulcus–the fracture from which said plume emanates–is in darkness for this flyover, but Cassini was able to snap various high-res surface shots of the moon as it passed back into daylight.

Enceladus at the Surface:  NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute


For its Tethys encounter, Cassini took a bit more conservative approach, passing about 5,700 miles above the moon’s surface. It was the first imaging expedition to Tethys since 2005, when Cassini captured imagery from its Saturn-facing side. This time Cassini snapped views of Tethys’s other side, which should provide researchers with enough data to start building decent digital elevation maps of Tethys’s surface.

Tethys, From a Distance: That’s no space station . . . it’s a moon.  NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute


Tethys, Up Close:  NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute



NASA: the sound of Saturn

September 5, 2011 Leave a comment

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Spacecraft detects most powerful lightning storm yet on Saturn; still raging months later

July 7, 2011 1 comment

By Alicia Chang, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press – Wed, 6 Jul, 2011
This image provided by NASA shows a Saturn image taken on Dec. 24, 2010 by the Cassini camera showing a storm, upper center, covering an area similar to that from London to Cape Town.(AP Photo/NASA)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – It began as a bright white dot in Saturn’s northern hemisphere. Within days, the dot grew larger and stormier.

Soon the tempest enveloped the ringed planet, triggering lightning flashes thousands of times more intense than on Earth.

The international Cassini spacecraft and ground telescopes have been tracking the turbulence since last December, visible from Earth as a type of storm known as a “Great White Spot.”

“It’s still going like crazy,” said Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Such planet-wide weather disturbances are rare on Saturn, where the atmosphere is typically hazy and calm. Since 1876, astronomers have observed only five other megastorms on Saturn.

“This is a one-of-a-kind storm,” said Andrew Ingersoll, a self-described planetary weatherman at the California Institute of Technology, who was part of the discovery team.

Scientists have long studied weather on other planets. One of the solar system’s most famous landmarks is Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a hurricane-like storm that has been raging for centuries. Landers and rovers to Mars’ surface often carried weather stations, dodged dust storms and sought favourable places to park during the winter.

An instrument aboard Cassini, which is orbiting Saturn, first picked up radio outbursts on Dec. 5, 2010, from a lightning storm. Around the same time, amateur astronomers peering through telescopes saw a bright point in Saturn’s northern half. Further observations confirmed it was a brewing storm.

The storm system, which occurred during the start of Saturn spring, grew in size and intensity, eventually stretching around the planet. Scientists don’t exactly know what stirs up the storms, but they think it could be linked to the change of seasons.

At the height of the storm, Cassini detected 10 lightning strikes per second. Scientists said the electrical activity emitted by the bursts were 10,000 times stronger than lightning on Earth.

The findings were described in two papers published in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.

The new work represents “some of the most detailed observations so far of such a dramatic event,” Peter Read of the University of Oxford wrote in an accompanying editorial.

Saturn’s violent weather differs from Earth and Jupiter in significant ways. Lightning storms on Earth tend to be localized and short-lived, lasting only a few hours. Jupiter storms can last for days and lightning is far more common there than on Saturn.

Since entering orbit around Saturn in 2004, Cassini has witnessed 10 storms in a region of the southern hemisphere known as “storm alley” because of the high level of storm activity.

The previous storms were much weaker compared with the latest one, the first to be detected in the northern hemisphere.



Nature journal: