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Beyond Earthly Skies

Saturn’s Great Storm of 2010-2011

12 May 2013, 04:45 UTC
Saturn’s Great Storm of 2010-2011
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

And “while the world runs round and round,” I said,“Reign thou apart, a quiet king,Still as, while Saturn whirls, his steadfast shadeSleeps on his luminous ring.”- Alfred Tennyson, Poems, “The Palace of Art”, stanza 4 line 13-16.Figure 1: In a splendid portrait captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on 7 November 2004, Saturn’s lonely moon Mimas is seen against the cool, blue-streaked backdrop of Saturn’s northern hemisphere. Delicate shadows cast by the rings arc gracefully across the planet, fading into darkness on Saturn’s night side. The part of the atmosphere seen here appears darker and more bluish than the warm brown and gold hues seen in Cassini images of the southern hemisphere, due to preferential scattering of blue wavelengths by the cloud-free upper atmosphere. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.Large planet-encircling storms are known to occur on Saturn. Such storms are the largest known convective cumulus outburst in the Solar System. The last one on Saturn took place in 1990 and was observed by the Hubble Space Telescope. In December 2010, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft detected a developing storm head which grew into a planet-encircling storm that lasted well into 2011. Being in orbit around Saturn, Cassini provided an unprecedented opportunity for close-up observations ...

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