Weather on alien planets is always fascinating. Perhaps the most famous extraterrestrial weather system is Jupiter’s Great Red Spot — otherwise known as that huge blotch in the planet’s southern hemisphere — which is storm that is estimated to have a total lifetime of around 180 to 350 years. Jupiter isn’t the only planet with a cool, persistent storm, though. NASA’s venerable Saturn probe, Cassini, has been observing the ringed planet since 2004, and has seen some incredible things. A new video released by NASA, though, is possibly the most beautiful observation Cassini has made so far.
A mysterious hexagon appeared at Saturn’s north pole, but the Cassini imaging team was not able to see what was at the center of it due to obstruction from the winter season. However, the planet changed from winter to spring, and what as at the center of the hexagon became clear: a hurricane larger than two Earths.
The winds of the Saturn hurricane are raging at over 300mph. For comparison, an Earth storm is classified as a hurricane once it reaches a sustained wind speed of 74mph. Whereas an Earth hurricane travels around and requires an ocean to be underneath itself in order to form, this Saturnian hurricane is locked to the north pole, and doesn’t have an ocean under it. NASA scientists don’t yet know why the hurricane didn’t need an ocean to form.
The eye of the storm is a gargantuan 1,250 miles wide.
The storm is referred to as the Red Rose of Saturn, not because the actual clouds are red, but because the color pictures provided by NASA have been enhanced to show the height differential between the storm’s clouds. The red clouds are lower, while the surrounding green clous are higher. So, it somewhat resembles a red rose surrounded by green foliage.
Cassini continues to gather stunning footage from Saturn, and recently the mission was extended until 2017, so there will sure to be more gorgeous footage to come.
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