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Spacecraft returns dramatic images of massive hurricane on Saturn
by Staff Writers
Pasadena, Calif. (UPI) Apr 29, 2013


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.

NASA says the Cassini spacecraft has sent back the first close-up, visible-light views of a behemoth hurricane swirling around Saturn's north pole.

High-resolution pictures and video indicated the hurricane's eye is about 1,250 miles wide, 20 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth, the space agency reported Monday.

Thin, bright clouds at the outer edge of the hurricane are traveling at 330 mph, scientists said.

"We did a double take when we saw this vortex because it looks so much like a hurricane on Earth," said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "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."

Although there is no body of water such as an ocean close to these clouds high in Saturn's atmosphere, learning how these storms use water vapor could help reveal more about how terrestrial hurricanes are generated and sustained, the scientists said.

Unlike terrestrial hurricanes, which tend to move, the hurricane on Saturn is locked onto the planet's north pole. On Earth, hurricanes tend to drift northward because of the forces acting on the fast swirls of wind as the planet rotates.

The one on Saturn, which is believed to have been churning for years, is already as far north as it can be, scientists say.

"The polar hurricane has nowhere else to go, and that's likely why it's stuck at the pole," said Kunio Sayanagi, a Cassini imaging team associate at Hampton University in Hampton, Va.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.

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SATURN DAILY
NASA Probe Observes Meteors Colliding with Saturn's Rings
Pasadena CA (JPL) Apr 29, 2013
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has provided the first direct evidence of small meteoroids breaking into streams of rubble and crashing into Saturn's rings. These observations make Saturn's rings the only location besides Earth, the moon and Jupiter where scientists and amateur astronomers have been able to observe impacts as they occur. Studying the impact rate of meteoroids from outside the Sa ... read more


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