Enjoying EarthSky? Subscribe.

123,575 subscribers and counting ...

EarthSky // Today's Image Release Date: Jun 05, 2014

Close-up views of large hurricane on Saturn

This massive hurricane at Saturn’s north pole may have been churning for years.

Saturn's North Pole

View Larger | This spectacular, vertigo inducing, false-color image from NASA’s Cassini mission highlights the storms at Saturn’s north pole. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Hurricane season has begun on Earth, but Earth isn’t the only world with hurricanes. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft provided scientists with this image a year ago. It was the first close-up, visible-light views of a behemoth hurricane swirling around Saturn’s north pole. The hurricane’s eye is about 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) wide, 20 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth. Thin, bright clouds at the outer edge of the hurricane are traveling 330 mph(150 meters per second). The hurricane swirls inside a large, mysterious, six-sided weather pattern known as the hexagon.

Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said:

We did a double take when we saw this vortex because it looks so much like a hurricane on Earth. But there it is at Saturn, on a much larger scale, and it is somehow getting by on the small amounts of water vapor in Saturn’s hydrogen atmosphere.

Scientists will be studying the hurricane to gain insight into hurricanes on Earth, which feed off warm ocean water. Although there is no body of water close to these clouds high in Saturn’s atmosphere, learning how these Saturnian storms use water vapor could tell scientists more about how terrestrial hurricanes are generated and sustained.


Read more about the hurricane at Saturn’s north pole via NASA JPL

Saturn-hexagon

Saturn’s north polar hurricane swirls inside this unique six-sided feature of Saturn known as “the hexagon.” This movie, made from images obtained by the Cassini spacecraft’s imaging cameras, is the first to show the hexagon in color filters, and the first movie to show a complete view from the north pole down to about 70 degrees north latitude. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University

The Rose

View Larger | The spinning vortex of Saturn’s north polar storm resembles a deep red rose of giant proportions surrounded by green foliage in this false-color image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Spring North Pole on Saturn

View Larger | The north pole of Saturn, in the fresh light of spring, is revealed in this color image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Are you prepared for a hurricane?

How do hurricanes get their names?

Want to see your photos on EarthSky?
Upload or share them today on Facebook or Google+.