NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has provided scientists the first close-up, visible-light views of a behemoth hurricane swirling around Saturn’s north pole.
In high-resolution pictures and video, scientists see 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.
“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.”
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.
Both a terrestrial hurricane and Saturn’s north polar vortex have a central eye with no clouds or very low clouds. Other similar features include high clouds forming an eye wall, other high clouds spiraling around the eye, and a counter-clockwise spin in the northern hemisphere.
A major difference between the hurricanes is that the one on Saturn is much bigger than its counterparts on Earth and spins surprisingly fast. At Saturn, the wind in the eye wall blows more than four times faster than hurricane-force winds on Earth. Unlike terrestrial hurricanes, which tend to move, the Saturnian hurricane 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 does not drift and is already as far north as it can be.
“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.
Scientists believe the massive storm has been churning for years. When Cassini arrived in the Saturn system in 2004, Saturn’s north pole was dark because the planet was in the middle of its north polar winter. During that time, the Cassini spacecraft’s composite infrared spectrometer and visual and infrared mapping spectrometer detected a great vortex, but a visible-light view had to wait for the passing of the equinox in August 2009. Only then did sunlight begin flooding Saturn’s northern hemisphere. The view required a change in the angle of Cassini’s orbits around Saturn so the spacecraft could see the poles.
“Such a stunning and mesmerizing view of the hurricane-like storm at the north pole is only possible because Cassini is on a sportier course, with orbits tilted to loop the spacecraft above and below Saturn’s equatorial plane,” said Scott Edgington, Cassini deputy project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “You cannot see the polar regions very well from an equatorial orbit. Observing the planet from different vantage points reveals more about the cloud layers that cover the entirety of the planet.”
Cassini changes its orbital inclination for such an observing campaign only once every few years. Because the spacecraft uses flybys of Saturn’s moon Titan to change the angle of its orbit, the inclined trajectories require attentive oversight from navigators. The path requires careful planning years in advance and sticking very precisely to the planned itinerary to ensure enough propellant is available for the spacecraft to reach future planned orbits and encounters.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI
A hypothetical lunch with an anti-state anti-theist, a liberal democrat atheist, and a christian tea party republican
- Me (anti-statist anti-theist): Hey guys, thanks for meeting with me for lunch.
- Liberal democrat atheist: Oh hey, I'm sorry, but I'll probably have to cut out early. I gotta go to a solidarity march with the local teacher's union later.
- Christian tea party republican: God bless us all and this food that he literally hand delivered to us from the back of his flaming chariot. In jesus name, amen!
- Me: Um, no he didn't.
- Liberal democrat atheist: Are you high on PCP or just retarded?
- Christian tea party republican: I'll pray for you guys. You just don't know the glory of our lord and savior jesus christ.
- Me: OK, let's just eat. What's that you got there god boy?
- Christian tea party republican: A quadruple bacon cheeseburger with chilli fries and a vat of diet coke. It's a man's meal, and I'm no godless gay faggot.
- Me: Enjoy your heart attack. How about you donkey boy?
- Liberal democrat atheist: Some lean pockets and a pre-packaged yogurt parfait from Cosco. I'll wash it all down with some Perrier.
- Me: Won't you be hungry?
- Liberal democrat atheist: Well, I don't want to be confined to the hover-round like god boy here.
- Me and donkey boy: LOL
- Donkey boy and god boy: WTF is that you have? Is that even food?
- Me: Actually, it's a garden salad full of raw organic vegetables topped with balsamic vinaigrette and a cup of hemp seed porridge with agave nectar. I also have this wedge of delicious raw milk bleu cheese and a tall glass of pomegranate juice. I'm not sure if I can eat all this food, but it's only like a total of 200 calories, so who cares?
- Christian tea party republican: Are you a faggot?
- Liberal democrat atheist: Hey, cool it god boy, that's offensive! Seriously though, WTF? I thought you were smart? I can't believe you buy into that organic food nonsense. You know how many millions of African children will starve to death because you didn't buy your groceries from a GMO manufacturer?
- Me: Don't know, don't care. This stuff tastes good.
- Christian tea party republican: Yech! Get that shit out of my sight, I'm gonna barf! None if it's even fried!
- Liberal democrat atheist: Here, you want one of my lean pockets? You really shouldn't be eating that. Unless you believe in that crazy gobbledygook about GMO crops being harmful. I suppose you believe in chemtrails and the hollow earth theory as well you mentally unstable whack job?
- Me: I don't believe that, for the most part. Research has shown that organic vegetables are far more nutrient rich than highly processed GMO foods. Plus my lunch tastes delicious.
- Liberal democrat atheist: Pseudo science. Next you're gonna try to tell me Barrack Obama is a reptilian alien who feats on human flesh.
- Me: Why would I do that?
- Christian tea party republican: Actually, that's true. Obama liquefied chrisitan babies in a blender and then drinks them up with a straw. As for healthy food, I won't eat it because I don't want to turn gay and Jesus will give me all the nutrition I need.
- Me: You guys are insane.
- Liberal democrat atheist: I know you are, but what am I?
- Christian tea party republican: That's a funny thing for a satan worshiper to say.
- Me: Alright, let's just talk about something else. We lucked out when CISPA didn't make it through congress, huh?
- Christian tea party republican: What's a CISPA? Isn't that the kid from Lion King?
- Liberal democrat atheist: Lucked out? You're a special kind of stupid, aren't you? Now we have to worry about constant cyber attacks from the North Koreans and Iranians, and all this after all those poor people lost their lives in Boston!
- Me: Three people. If that bombing happened at rush hour instead of the Boston Marathon no one would give a shit.
- Christian tea party republican: I knew you were on the terrorists' side! My uncle didn't fight in the first Gulf War so you could spew your anti-American hatred, he fought for your freedom! Murica!
- Liberal democrat atheist: Yeah man, that's incredibly insensitive. I can't believe that you buy all those half-baked conspiracy theories that you read on inforwars.com.
- Me: I don't read that website, it's stupid. And I never said anything about a conspiracy.
- Christian tea party republican: The only conspiracy is that Obama let them sand niggers into our country and then gave them the bombs to blow up those poor people. Now he's trying to flood our great nation with even more terrorists!
- Liberal democrat atheist: Now you sound almost as dumb as tin foil helmet boy over here. Besides, Mr. Paranoia here said that the CIA planted those bombs, not Obama's Muslim lackeys.
- Me: Um, no I didn't.
- Liberal democrat atheist: But you're eating organic food, so obviously you think the "durn gubmint" is behind the Boston bombing and everything else bad that happens in the world.
- Christian tea party republican: Well, the durn gubmint is to blame for everything bad that happens. Especially now since it's run by a nigger.
- Me and donkey boy: Wow.
- Me: Both of your are jumping to ridiculous conclusions. I don't trust the government, that is true. but I assess the all the facts and then arrive at a decision. Isn't that what a critical thinker is supposed to do donkey boy?
- Liberal democrat atheist: Well yeah, but only if you're an actual scientist. You don't even have your masters, so you don't know shit. You should just believe whatever the Daily Kos says. The less people like you think, the better off we'll all be.
- Christian tea party republican: Don't listen to that fucking commie. Everything you need to know is the Bible. Jesus founded this country, and has laid out a perfect plan for it that is unfortunately being destroyed by nazi communist muslim nigger faggots.
- Me: Yeah, I'm not hungry anymore guys. I'm gonna go to the library and read some Proudhon. Have a good day!
- Liberal democrat atheist: Hope the CIA doesn't abduct you in their reverse engineered UFO and anally probe you, LOL!
- Christian tea party republican: Burn in hell you godless heathen! Murica!
I saw the original venn diagrams on Tumblr yesterday, attached the top image & the appropriate quotes at the bottom. Check them out & share them on Facebook here (at The People’s Record Facebook page).
Nonsense. There is no government corruption in America…. NOT!