April 30th, 2013
12:43 PM ET

Saturn shows off spectacular storm

By Sophia Dengo, CNN

NASA's Cassini spacecraft returned a stunning image of a hurricane on Saturn's northern pole. The shot (pictured above) was taken on November 27 and is one of the first views of Saturn's north pole lit by the sun.

The colors in the image are not the real ones.  They represent projections of various wavelengths of near-infrared light. Red is used to represent low clouds, and green indicates high clouds.

Scientists don't know how long this storm, which has an eye that measures 1,250 miles across, with cloud speeds as fast as 330 mph, has been active. The last time the planet's north pole was imaged in 2004, it was in darkness.

According to NASA, images were taken with a narrow-angle camera on Cassini, "using a combination of spectral filters sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light."

Studying this storm may lead scientists to new insights about hurricanes on Earth.

Cassini is one part of the Cassini-Huygens mission operated by NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. Read more about it here, here and here.

Post by:
Filed under: Light up the screen
soundoff (110 Responses)
  1. ?

    nasa should try detonating a nuke in space, I wonder if it could be controlled in space, maybe sort of shaped into a charge that could project out the back

    May 5, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
  2. daniel

    That would be amazing. I love a good storm!

    May 1, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
  3. John

    That's a silly comment considering Donna Brazille , a prominent Democrat and New Orleans native praised President Bush for his response and tireless efforts to help the people on the Gulf Coast.

    May 1, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • concerningTruth

      mooning moons moon u!

      May 2, 2013 at 3:26 am |
      • John

        What grade are you in?

        May 3, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
  4. Like a BOSS

    My new desktop background picture!

    May 1, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  5. greasy phil

    I'm calling a fake on this one.. Looks photoshopped to me. And besides, how real is space actually? All our information is from government propaganda masters.

    May 1, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • concerningTruth

      gee phil ... can you read?

      May 2, 2013 at 3:24 am |
      • Judas Priest

        It's just Duck Dodgers or whatever he wants to call himself today, trolling his favorite conspiracy theory. He thinks everyone is as stupid and unwilling to learn as he is.

        May 2, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • superbole

      God love dolts like "phil" here. Without them life would be boring.

      May 6, 2013 at 12:44 am |
  6. Lynn

    If it's a hurricane ,bush will ignore it .

    May 1, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • John

      That's a silly comment considering Donna Brazille , a prominent Democrat and New Orleans native praised President Bush for his response and tireless efforts to help the people on the Gulf Coast.

      May 1, 2013 at 11:09 am |
      • Drivenb4u

        And that's a silly comment considering Kanye West, a respected cultural innovator, publicly denounced Bush for his lack of effort.

        May 1, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
      • John

        FEMA is secondary to State and Local resources so how is it that the Governor of LA and Mayor of New Orleans escape criticism?

        May 3, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  7. Elroy Jetson

    Kind of reminds me of my butt hole after Mexican food. That stuff just doesn't agree with me.

    May 1, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • Lynn

      You have a very big one , why is that ?

      May 1, 2013 at 8:56 am |
      • Curios George

        You're very curious about another man's anus – why is that?

        May 1, 2013 at 10:04 am |
      • Elroy Jetson

        It's not that big, silly. I'm just a kid. It gets pretty red & rough after a burrito, though. I wonder if that thing get gaseous vapors, too? I got that problem, too. Thanks for asking, though.

        May 1, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Like a BOSS

      Cause its 1250 miles wide!

      May 1, 2013 at 11:03 am |
      • Ben D Ober

        I am not even going to ask you how you managed to get spread that wide...

        May 1, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  8. Jonathan

    Those reds are beautiful. Could you imagine if that were the actual colors of the clouds? Almost looks like a firestorm even though it's just infrared lighting it's still very beautiful.

    May 1, 2013 at 7:15 am |
    • concerningTruth

      I assume the particles that are spinning on the north pole of Saturn are nothing less than dust and dirt and perhaps the odd particle of nuclear waste. I can imagine the devastation.... and yes its beautiful. :)

      May 2, 2013 at 3:23 am |
  9. helenecha

    Glad to see them. Wish scientists to learn them more far beyond what people thought possible.

    May 1, 2013 at 1:46 am |
  10. Eva

    mmmhh I was expecting a video... lol

    May 1, 2013 at 1:28 am |
  11. Willy

    Far out!

    May 1, 2013 at 12:06 am |
  12. Bob1god

    Good 2 see something else getting it good!

    April 30, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
  13. Homer10

    Wow. I have heard of the Saturn polar Hexagon before, but these pictures are incredible. Rather strange how perfect this hexagon shaped weather system is, and it's been there for many years (as far as we know it could have been there since the beginning of time). Very weird.

    April 30, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • jayharland

      "Scientists don't know how long this storm, which has an eye that measures 1,250 miles across, with cloud speeds as fast as 330 mph, has been active. The last time the planet's north pole was imaged in 2004, it was in darkness."

      May 1, 2013 at 1:31 am |
  14. H. B.

    Instead of getting snarky about things you know nothing about, why don't you ask QUESTIONS? Maybe some other commenter may be able to help improve your knowledge.

    Why do so many people who have zero knowledge of sciences have such staunch opinions about articles like this? Nobody reading this one is presumed to know what the scientists know. It's written to inform people who are interested in knowing more. It is not written to deceive people who are already too stupid to even understand the article itself.

    Being ignorant is no crime, no shame. Everyone is ignorant of many things. Nobody can know everything there is to know. So it isn't shameful to admit that you don't understand something in the article. Just ASK! Pretending that you know more than the scientists or the person who wrote the article only makes you look stupid.

    There is no excuse for stupidity, which is ignorance that gets arrogant about it.

    What I would like to ask is whether they can show a real-life photo of the same phenomenon? The false-color image reveals much information to scientists. After explaining, we, too, can understand some of that info. But I'd still like to see the storm without the color enhancements. What is its natural color variety?

    Does the storm show any indication of temperatures, both within the storm and in areas not affected by it? I'd like to know those things, too. Also, what is the velocity of the more quiet regions of Saturn? I doubt they're placid.

    I know Saturn is a lot cooler than Jupiter, which is almost a proto-sun. But Saturn must still be plenty hot. Anyone know the range of temperatures there?

    Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus are called "gas giants." These seem to be common in planetary systems. Do any of them have a "surface"? Very likely little to none in the form of solid matter, like rock. Still, they'd have picked up some during their formation. But whether we will EVER know what is at the center of any gas giant is probably nil. I don't think many people grasp how BIG these gas giants are. Their "atmospheres" are thousands of miles thick. You could plunk dozens of Earths into the big red spot on Jupiter, with room to spare.

    April 30, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
    • Tim

      Not to be a stickler, but you could only plunk about three Earths in there. Just saying.

      April 30, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • Jonathan

      There is hardly any color variation. Saturn is generally a yellow/green through a telescope. At least through my 4.5 inch telescope. I'm not sure when it comes to being in orbit around Saturn like Cassini is. But the reason why many things in space don't have much color except when photographed is our eyes just aren't sensitive enough. Cameras are.

      April 30, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
      • exceptional

        Its quite amazing!

        May 1, 2013 at 2:13 am |
  15. Scott Summers

    Space isn't real. Have ANY of you been to space? point and case.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • Judas Priest

      Antarctica isn't real. Have any of you been there? No? Match point.
      Air isn't real. Has anybody ever SEEN any air? Case closed.
      Bacteria aren't real either. No one's ever seen one with their own eyes. Microscopes don't count, you only see squiggles from pressing your eyes into the eyepieces. AHA!
      Stupidity isn– no, scratch that. It's all over the comment I'm responding to.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
      • Ben D Ober

        "Air isn't real. Has anybody ever SEEN any air? Case closed."

        Obviously you have never visited Pittsburgh or China

        May 1, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Darketernal

      God also isn't real, never seen it.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
      • Austin

        have you seen your brain? ITS NOT REAL THEN

        May 1, 2013 at 7:44 am |
  16. willie nelson

    i used to travel to saturn back in the day when a dime bag only cost a dime

    April 30, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
    • doofus

      a dime bag never cost a dime. it's a reference to weight.

      May 1, 2013 at 12:01 am |
      • dave

        In my day a dime bag cost 10 dollars a nickle bag cost 5

        May 1, 2013 at 6:18 am |
    • uckermanf

      Go smoke some weed, Willie. That's about all you are good for.

      May 1, 2013 at 12:12 am |
  17. Matt

    Between the Sarah Palin anus post, and the ridiculous hypothesis laid out by a few posters, I have to say this has been one of the funniest comment sections I've come across in a while. Thanks!

    April 30, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
  18. Roger Ramjet

    Neptune winds can reach 1600 Mph! Question: Where is this storm in relation to the hexagonal standing wave of Saturn's north pole?

    April 30, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Nick

      I know. You can see the storm sitting smack in the middle of that hexagon. A Euclidean geometrical shape stamped on the top of a wold almost like an artistic touch-up. On a planet with ovals, spirals, and wispy clouds, it's just so wrong! lol

      April 30, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
  19. penny

    cute

    April 30, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
  20. Curious

    If we are closer to huricanes on earth and can physicall measure them, how can studying a different planet that doesn't have an anounce of similarity in atmospheric pressure or content help us understand our home better? Is it to see what principles carry over the distinction line so we can limit the factors that are specific to earth? Wouldn't that already be determined by what we already know is different about our atmospheric pressure and content?

    April 30, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • EricThe Engr

      Saturn's hurricane is caused by the same thing as our planet's hurricanes, which is heat moving from a lower atmospheric level to cooler layers above. So they have roughly the same structure and behavior, but Saturn's storm is much more extreme – it's much larger and more violent. The exaggerated size of it can help scientists notice effects or processes that you couldn't see in an Earth storm because they are too small or happen too fast.

      April 30, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
      • Curious

        Thank you!

        April 30, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • Dave

      We're not specifically studying that storm at the north pole.

      There are many reasons were are currently studying the planets and stars, but it's not for understanding the Earth. It's so we can understand how to leave Earth.

      May 1, 2013 at 12:22 am |
      • Judas Priest

        Understanding processes on other planets does also help advance our understanding of similar processes on Earth. But there's also the desire to know, and the sense of wonder.

        May 1, 2013 at 9:47 am |
  21. Dan

    ...about missing the whole point(..or is that hole point??)...What a fantastic picture!!!

    April 30, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  22. nikolai619

    al gore says it was caused by global warming. your SUVs are to blame

    April 30, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
  23. Shamma Lammadingdong

    It's definitely big enough.

    April 30, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • Eric

      Haha bet you never had a lady say that to you before!

      April 30, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
  24. PQ

    I wish I had ten million dollars. Just a random thought.

    April 30, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • Curious

      Let's not be greedy. 1 million after taxes would be more than enough for me... :P

      April 30, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • Shirley U. Mustbejoking

      I wish you did too. and I wish I could be your wife and divorce you and take half.

      April 30, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • Co-Signer

      I would settle for 500,000

      April 30, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
  25. rocketmatt

    its full of stars!!!

    April 30, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • Chris

      I'm pretty sure you don't understand anything. . . people are so stupid. . .

      April 30, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
      • Gunz

        Chris, It's a reference to "2001 – A Space Odyssey" You shouldn't judge people when you yourself don't understand. It makes you look ignorant.

        April 30, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
  26. Matt

    I doubt that Saturn's clouds represent a storm, because no one has ever been to Saturn. In my random tangential opinion, the clouds can equally be a circular landscape of the planet. Unless someone goes there, we simply do not know. Right now, we're studying a "photo shopped" image and applying our knowledge to the modified image. Not much can be gained from this. In the past, society used to think that our planet was flat.

    April 30, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • sigh

      moron

      April 30, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • UncleM

      Your comments based on total ignorance are worth so much more than those of NASA scientists. /sarcasm off

      April 30, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Tim

      In addition to random and tangential, you should add ignorant and uneducated. Congratulations, you've managed to make a random opinion that does nothing but reveal your complete lack of knowledge about things like planetary science, fluid dynamics, spectroscopy, and the impact of solar energy on a closed meteorological system. Further, the application of false colors is to provide atmospheric reference points for laypersons. People like you are the reason that Galileo was persecuted. Remember, it is better to be thought a fool and remain silent, than to speak and remove all doubt. Now, go back to your guns mud tires.

      April 30, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • Joe

      Neat, 330 mph moving land masses.

      April 30, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • Choo

      Thank you for that. Everyone is a little dumber after having read that.
      Saturn is a gas giant. This can't be compared to "flat earth" thinking. It is nearly gas the whole way through.
      They "photoshopped" it to bring out depth and contrast to something that is essentially black and white.

      April 30, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Cait

      NASA's statement is very good estimate of what is actually ocurring on the planet, even if we've never been able to visit directly to measure these states from the planet. They use the tools at hand to measure wavelengths and apply astronomical physics to that information and can make approximations that are usually close to actuality. The pictures of Mars that we had gave us the ability to make theories of that planet, and eventually confirming those assumption with the many trips to the surface of Mars and sample testing.

      April 30, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • Shamma Lammadingdong

      At least he acknowledged the world is no longer flat.

      April 30, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • Matt v2.0

      idiot.

      April 30, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • bongu

      My divergent thinking and tangential reasoning leads me to think outside the box. Why do we think stars are ball of gas undergoing fusion reactions? How do we know they aren't just bits of poop burning in the sky? We will never know until we go there and set foot on the stars.

      April 30, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
      • Judas Priest

        May you be the first. Let us all know how hot that poop is.

        April 30, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
      • Timon

        They are fireflies that got stuck in that big bluish black thing!

        May 1, 2013 at 3:49 am |
      • Ben D Ober

        Slimy yet satisying...

        Oooh...the little green filled kind!

        May 1, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Coflyboy

      You forgot to mention that those clouds were photoshopped by the Obama administration to coerce congress into providing funds for a rest stop providing aliens with free cell phones and healthcare

      April 30, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
      • sam

        LOL!

        April 30, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
      • Dove

        "Well Dang!" LOL

        April 30, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • Spunky

      Brilliant Matt, brilliant. *sigh*

      April 30, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • fortunate

      Everyone but lazy spent some time to wipe their feet on the author of this comment, calling him (or her) with all kinds of names. We probably see the audience of highly educated astrophysicists here, am I right? In fact the author of the comment may be as right as anyone. Not much is known about Saturn (about any Jovian planet actually). Most of knowledge is a bunch of theories and speculations based on sketchy facts received from radio- and optical telescopes. No zond ever made it to the 'surface' of any of Jovian planets, including Saturn. Fly-bys by satellites is the closest approach we had. The speculations by NASA scientists are that Jupiter, Saturn and probably even Uranus and Neptune, have no distinct boundary between their 'atmosphere' and their 'surface'. The ammonia-methan 'air' there is under a tremendous pressure due to a high gravitation forces on giant planets, at the same time rotation of those planets around their axis is very fast. Quite possible, that the 'air' there seamlessly turns into 'water' than to 'solid surface' thousands of miles down from the observable surface of the planet's atmosphere. Entire mountainridges consisting of frozen and conmpressed methan may fly/float in that mix, and down deep the frozen H2O water may be creating hard as rock peaks and ravines against which the floating mountains hit, with myriads of lightnings striking everywhere because of a highly electrified (due to a friction) atmosphere. Thus, the picture may be of a real landscape, however flexible it may appear.

      April 30, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
      • Spunky

        Based on this line of reasoning, the Sun may or may not be hot, because someone has not been there we simply do not know.

        April 30, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
      • Judas Priest

        No, that's an image of clouds that are visible from the surface. What you are describing would be well below what we can see with current imaging technology. But it's a nice thought.

        April 30, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
      • sigh

        (another) moron

        April 30, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
      • cedar rapids

        'Most of knowledge is a bunch of theories and speculations based on sketchy facts received from radio- and optical telescopes'

        sigh, that dismissive statement is why you, and the original poster, are i diots.

        May 1, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  27. Kesley Newell

    Whoah. Cool...

    April 30, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • AJ

      really cool!

      April 30, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
  28. Buck Rogers

    Does NASA use the same computer program to generate these 'Casini images' as they do to generate pictures of 'exploding stars' via the Hubble?

    April 30, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • erexx

      Stick to watching childrens TV.
      You'll be less likely to hurt yourself while breathing.

      April 30, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
      • Judas Priest

        Obvious troll is obvious. Don't feed it.

        April 30, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • doofus

      they probably don't use the same processing system. cassini was launched a number of years after hubble. hubble has undergone at least one upgrade though. not sure if it was just optics or if it's processor/code upgrade. a quick google search should yield results. don't let this massive system of information called the internet hold you back bro.

      May 1, 2013 at 12:09 am |
      • Judas Priest

        He's asking the question to try to start an argument about his favorite subject, that NASA is faking everything about space travel and space exploration because he thinks it's physically impossible. Best advice is not to waste time or energy here, move on to something more worthwhile.

        May 1, 2013 at 9:53 am |
      • cedar rapids

        though one has to ask why he thinks nasa fake hubble picutres and why he thinks they cant be real in the first place .

        May 1, 2013 at 10:09 am |

Contributors

  • Elizabeth LandauElizabeth Landau
    Writer/Producer
  • Sophia DengoSophia Dengo
    Senior Designer