A storm eight times the surface of the Earth rips across Saturn

The hurricanes and tornadoes that rip across our landscape can cause incredible devastation but they are nothing compared to the storms that travel across our sister planets in the solar system.

On Saturn these humongous storms are called Great White Spots and are ten times larger than the regular storms that travel across the surface of Saturn and usually only occur once every 29.5 Earth years or once per Saturian year.

The NASA Cassini spacecraft that is currently surveying Saturn from space was lucky enough to catch an image of one of these huge Great White Spot storms.

The images caught between December 2010 through to February 2011 show a storm that is approximately 6,200 miles wide; which is equivalent to eight times the Earth's surface.

It arrived 10 years earlier than usual, and grew rapidly, engulfing the planet by late January and covering around 1.5 billion square miles (4 billion square kilometers).

"This storm is thrilling because it shows how shifting seasons and solar illumination can dramatically stir up the weather on Saturn," said lead author Georg Fischer at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Graz in a press release.

"We have been observing storms on Saturn for almost seven years, so tracking a storm so different from the others has put us at the edge of our seats."

The titanic storm manifested a lightning flash more rapid than any other storm Cassini has imaged on Saturn since it arrived there in 2004, making it difficult for the spacecraft's radio and plasma wave instrument to separate the individual signals.

"The flash rates of this storm are about an order of magnitude higher than previous ones, and peak rates larger than ten per second were recorded," wrote the authors in a letter to Nature.

via The Epoch Times