Storm On Saturn Has Grown Into A Monster!

by Tammy Plotner on January 27, 2011

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Just before the holidays, UT reported about about the Growing Storm On Saturn and showed us the Cassini images. Now more than a month has passed and the white scar of the raging atmosphere has escalated to an incredible size… Nearly 10 Earths wide!

Despite sub-zero temperatures and significant snow cover, at least one dedicated observer has been getting up early to observe what we rarely see – a change in Saturn’s pale golden face. “I was out from 4:30am to 6:00am early Saturday morning. I brushed all the snow off my Dome, and spent an hour or so shooting Saturn with its Big White Storm brewing in the cloud tops.” say John Chumack of Dayton, Ohio. “The seeing conditions were not the best, but I went for it anyway, after the high cirrus clouds moved out of the way, I had to try! -3F Temps in my backyard in Dayton, OH nearly killed my attempt.”

And temperatures like that are warm compared to Saturn’s surface. Depending on the depth of the atmosphere, it could be anywhere from -218.47F to -308.47. Unlike an Alberta Clipper here on Earth, Saturn is constantly having hurricane-like storms. However, few are easily visible in the average telescope. “The storm is enormous.” said John. “It’s no wonder we can see it from Earth, since Saturn at the time of this shot was about 865.2 million miles away or 1.392 billion km from us!”

But there’s more than just a storm hiding in John’s image. Thanks to a little ‘negative thinking’ he was also able to capture five tiny moons circling around Saturn’s icy ring system – Rhea, Dione, Enceladus, Mimas, and Tethys.

“My feet and fingers were numb by the time I was done, even with gloves on, nothing like having to touch frozen metal to point the telescope and run the focusers. Even the hand control paddles were having a tough time with the extreme temps, the LCD went blank and stopped working.” said John. “Heck, I nearly got freezer burned myself!!!”

Yeah, but what a view!

Many thanks to John Chumack of Galactic Images for braving the weather and sharing his work!

About 

Tammy is a professional astronomy author, President Emeritus of Warren Rupp Observatory and retired Astronomical League Executive Secretary. She’s received a vast number of astronomy achievement and observing awards, including the Great Lakes Astronomy Achievement Award, RG Wright Service Award and the first woman astronomer to achieve Comet Hunter's Gold Status.

Astrofiend January 27, 2011 at 7:17 PM

Nice – but where’s the latest Cassini pics dammit?!

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb January 27, 2011 at 7:31 PM

Good to see the phenomena is behaving as predicted, just as Saturn had done at previous outbursts.

Navneeth January 27, 2011 at 10:58 PM

Good to see the phenomena is behaving as predicted

That’s not good, it’s just boring. :P

JohnS January 28, 2011 at 7:33 AM

Pictures of the Storm can be found on Cassini web site.

Like John Chumack I’ve had cloudy skies, single digit temperature or snow fall preventing my view of this large storm on Saturn.

I do keep a time schedule, which I create, when the storm will be visible for my location. No clear sky on my horizon so far. Hope to see this big one before it is gone.

Aqua January 28, 2011 at 5:47 PM

Ahh, winter viewing rituals… Put on longies top and bottom, thick wool socks, a flannel shirt with sweater over then climb into the ski bib then wrap a wool neck warmer around your neck and tuck it in under the sweater, then put on the ear covering toupe, then realize that the extra cup of coffee you drank…..

Aqua January 28, 2011 at 5:49 PM

Oh yeah.. don’t forget your snow boots and winter jacket! And STAY AWAY from drinking any alcoholic ‘anit-freeze’… it’ll ruin your night vision.

Aqua January 28, 2011 at 5:50 PM

Then again… pour me just a tad of that Irish into this hot beverage….

Tammy Plotner January 28, 2011 at 6:57 PM

heheheheee! loved your comment about the extra cup of coffee! (i injured the fur trapper.)

“watch out where the huskies go… and don’t you eat that yellow snow!”

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