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Elenin 7/7/11 Saturn Megastorm

July 7, 2011

Check out the most intense Saturn storm that the Cassini spacecraft has ever recorded. You can see it overtaking its own tail as it zooms around Saturn’s Northern hemisphere. (The tail is the blue clouds to the South and West.)

The storm started months ago, and is still active today. The storm’s surface area is eight times the surface area of our own planet. And at its most intense, the storm has generated more than 10 lightning flashes per second. It covers 500 times the area of the largest of the Southern hemisphere storms Cassini has observed — there were several storms in the Southern region scientists dubbed “storm alley,” but the hemispheres flipped around August 2009, when the Northern hemisphere began experiencing spring.

Says Georg Fischer, the lead author of a paper about this new storm:

This storm is thrilling because it shows how shifting seasons and solar illumination can dramatically stir up the weather on Saturn. We have been observing storms on Saturn for almost seven years, so tracking a storm so different from the others has put us at the edge of our seats.

A false color image from Cassini of a day in the life of a huge storm that developed from a tiny spot that appeared just 12 weeks ago in Saturn's northern mid-latitudes. Via NASA.

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