Colossal Hurricane-Like Storm Found on Saturn
colossal hurricane-like storm found on saturn
by will dunham, reuters
washington (nov. 10) - a colossal, swirling storm with a well-
developed eye is churning at saturn's south pole, the first time a
truly hurricane-like storm has been detected on a planet other than
earth, nasa images showed on thursday.
the storm on the giant, ringed planet is about 5,000 miles wide,
measuring roughly two thirds the diameter of earth, with winds
howling clockwise at 350 mph.
jupiter's great red spot, which swirls counterclockwise, is far
bigger, but is less like a hurricane because it lacks the typical eye
and eye wall.
the images -- essentially a 14-frame movie -- were captured over a
period of three hours on october 11 by the u.s. space agency's
cassini spacecraft as it passed about 210,000 miles from the planet
as part of its exploration of saturn and its moons.
michael flasar, an astrophysicist involved in the mission at nasa's
goddard space flight center in greenbelt, maryland, said the storm
looks just like water swirling down the drain in a bath tub, only on
a gigantic scale.
"we've never seen anything like this before," flasar said in an
interview. "it's a spectacular-looking storm."
saturn, the second-biggest planet in the solar system with an
equatorial diameter of 74,000 miles and the sixth from the sun, is
about 746 million miles from earth.
its south pole storm is much bigger than earth hurricanes. it has a
well-developed eye ringed by towering clouds that soar 20-45 miles
above those in the dark center, two to five times higher than clouds
in our thunderstorms and hurricanes, nasa said.
a distinguishing feature of hurricanes on earth are the eye-wall
clouds that form when moist air flows inward across an ocean surface,
rising vertically and releasing a heavy rain around a circular region
of descending air that represents the eye. scientists said it was
unclear whether saturn's storm was a water-driven system.
it differs from earth hurricanes in part because it remains stuck at
the pole rather than drifting as such storms do on this planet and
because it did not form over a liquid water ocean, with saturn being
a gaseous planet, nasa said.
"it looks like a hurricane, but it doesn't behave like a hurricane,"
andrew ingersoll, a member of cassini's imaging team at the
california institute of technology in pasadena, said in a
statement. "whatever it is, we're going to focus on the eye of this
storm and find out why it's there."
flasar said scientists have more work ahead to understand the saturn
"i'm hoping that as we puzzle over it, it will become even more
exciting as we start to connect the dots in our brains. but right
now, the wheels are a little creaky," flasar said. "we're all arguing
with each other about what it might or might not be."
Re: Colossal Hurricane-Like Storm Found on Saturn
i only just noticed this on yahoo myself and was about to bring it to the list's
attention. as the article says, the scientists involved say they are at a loss
to explain what is causing the storm or its' behaviour.
david, perhaps this is merely due to my own lack of education in this area, but
from what i have seen, the hyperdimensional model that you've written about is
the only one which i know about which could possibly explain this. i tried to
read the material a while back...for the most part it went completely over my
head, but i remember the photos you included...and this honestly looks like the
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