A hurricane is an impressive display of the power of nature, an unfortunate reality that sometimes causes more than its fair share of damage and grief. While we’re all familiar with what a hurricane on our own planet looks like, hurricanes on other planets have been something of a mystery. That changed this month when NASA got the first-ever detailed look at a hurricane that took place on Saturn.
As it turns out, a hurricane on Saturn looks remarkably similar. Said California Institute of Technology’s Andrew Ingersoll, who was on the team responsible for imaging the storm: “We did a double take when we saw this vortex because it looks so much like a hurricane on Earth. 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.”
Both images and a video were captured of the hurricane, which NASA reports as having an eye 20x bigger than a typical Earth hurricane at 1,250 miles across. The storm took place in what is known as a hexagon weather pattern, six-sided and with thin outer clouds swirling around at 330mph. And unlike hurricanes that take place on our planet, the hurricane on Saturn is stuck to its north pole region rather than traveling.
One of the scientists’ goals is to figure out how the hurricane is created and sustained in the relative absence of water. Learning how the hurricane utilizes water vapors to form – especially given its overall larger and more powerful nature than our own – will help researchers understand the function of hurricanes on our own planet. The content was captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.