Storm On Saturn Has Grown Into A Monster!

by Tammy Plotner on January 27, 2011

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.

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