What's a monster hurricane doing on top of Saturn? (+video)
A monster hurricane at Saturn's north pole, spotted by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, has an eye 1,250 miles wide and inner eye wall winds of 330 miles an hour. Its energy source is a mystery.
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured images of a monster hurricane at Saturn's north pole – a storm so vast and powerful it makes tropical cyclones on Earth look tame by comparison.
The storm's eye alone spans some 1,250 miles – about the distance from North Carolina's Outer Banks to central Kansas. Wind speeds at the inner eye wall have been clocked at 330 miles an hour. The storm extends for another 600 to 700 miles beyond the eye.
Like a hurricane eye on Earth, the eye of Saturn is virtually cloudless, with tall clouds forming the eye wall and extending out from the eye.
"We did a double take when we saw this vortex because it looks so much like a hurricane on Earth," Andrew Ingersoll, a planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., and a member of the Cassini science team, said in a prepared statement. "But there it is at Saturn, on a much larger scale."
Saturn's no-name storm sits nearly dead center inside another odd feature: a hexagonal ring of high-speed winds analogous to Earth's polar jet streams, high-altitude winds that circle the globe at high latitudes.
The hexagon is about the size of Jupiter's Great Red Spot, a feature that would cover two to three Earths side by side, Dr. Ingersoll explained in an interview.