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Getting Up Close to Saturn’s Great White Spot

If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a minute. So goes the saying that is loosely attributed to Mark Twain. The same cannot be said of the weather on Saturn, where a super storm has been raging for over a year, stretching over 200,000 miles and encircled the entire planet.  

Monster storms have been observed to occur every 20 to 30 years on Saturn, but we are getting a front row seat to this event thanks to NASA’s Cassini probe that has been exploring Saturn on its Cassini Solstice Mission (Cassini has also delivered spectacular images of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.) It is not clear to scientists what exactly is causing the storm, but the energy is coming from within Saturn, a planet that is far away from the sun and receives only one one-hundredth of the energy that Earth receives from the sun. 

N.B. This storm may not technically be classified as a “Great White Spot,” which is the name given to Saturn’s recurring storms. The next one is expected in 2016. However, this year-long storm is far more powerful than the last one recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1993.


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