NASA's Cassini Space Probe has spotted a giant hurricane on the north pole of Saturn. The storm that is more than 1,200 miles across, or about the distance between New York City and Omaha, and is expected to pack winds of at least 330 miles an hour. The hurricane could have been there for years and can help scientists understand the behavior of hurricanes on Earth.
The Cassini has been observing the giant ringed planet since 2004 and has first sighted a Great White Spot back in 2010. The first observation of these gigantic hurricanes was first reported in 1876. The said hurricanes emerge on a regular basis in Saturn and measured to reoccur every 30 years or the equivalent of one year in Saturn.
The storm in Saturn can be very violent and can actually form and dissipate in just 10 hours. The latest giant hurricane started as a formation of white clouds in the mid-latitudes of the northern tip of Saturn and has remained active for the last seven months according to an article on Space Daily.
Scientists used the collected data from the space probe and simulated the huge storm using a mathematical model. They learned that such storms form about 300 kilometers on top of the visible clouds of the giant planet. The hurricane collects moist gas and liberates amazing amounts of energy in the atmosphere.
A report on Arstechnica said that the pressure gradient on and around the giant hurricane in Saturn was detected to be twice of that of the Great Red Spot on Jupiter. It was also found out that the hurricane is an anti-cyclone where winds are going around a central feature.
Cassini was able to capture a very detailed image of the giant storm. Each pixel of the image is equal to 14 kilometers across that helped scientists understand the dynamics of the great white spot.
The space probe was launched by NASA in 1997 to observer the moons of Saturn. It started orbiting the ringed planet back in 2004. On July 19, the Cassini will point its lens back on Earth to take pictures of the planet from Saturn.
A giant storm was also spotted by the Cassini back in 2010. The space probe used its infrared technology to observe the storm because there was not much light in the northern hemisphere of Saturn during its winter.