Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Stormy Saturn

Scientists analyzing data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft now have the first-ever, up-close details of a Saturn storm that is eight times the surface area of Earth.
On Dec. 5, 2010, Cassini first detected the storm that has been raging ever since. It appears at approximately 35 degrees north latitude on Saturn. Pictures from Cassini's imaging cameras show the storm wrapping around the entire planet covering approximately 1.5 billion square miles (4 billion square kilometers).
The storm is about 500 times larger than the biggest storm previously seen by Cassini during several months from 2009 to 2010.
This world-spanning tempest is noisy as well:
NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured these sounds of lightning strikes at Saturn on March 15, 2011, during the largest and most intense storm observed up-close at Saturn. Lightning at Saturn creates phenomena known as Saturn electrostatic discharges, which are like the static that Earth lightning creates on an AM radio. The amplitude and duration of the Saturn lightning radio signals were used to create the audio signals heard here.
...The storm is still raging. At its most active, lightning flashes occurred at a rate of more than 10 per second. This was so frequent, in fact, that Cassini could no longer resolve individual strokes.

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