Emily LakdawallaFeb 07, 2011

Some recent pictures of Saturn's northern storm

I've written here before about the huge storm that's spreading across so much of Saturn that it's been readily visible even from Earth-based telescopes. Over the past couple of days a couple of new images of Saturn have appeared that show just how enormous the storm is today. Here's one from the Cassini orbiter, which is, of course, in a better position than anybody else to view things happening on Saturn:

Saturn's northern storm on 4 February 2011
Saturn's northern storm on 4 February 2011 As part of its routine monitoring of Saturn's atmosphere, Cassini took the photos needed to compose this false-color composite view of the storm reaching across much of the planet's temperate northern latitudes on 4 February 2011. (The view is composed of three images taken through infrared, green, and blue filters.) NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI / color composite by Ian Regan

But I have to say that I am just amazed by how good a view an accomplished amateur can get -- and over a longer period of time than Cassini. Here's an animation from Christopher Go, whose observing site in the Philippines has been rained out for weeks but who finally managed to get a good night of observing in this weekend:

Saturn's northern storm on Feb. 6, 2011
Saturn's northern storm on Feb. 6, 2011 Amateur astronomer Christopher Go composed eight images of Saturn taken over a period of about half an hour into this animation showing Saturn's enormous storm moving with the planet's rotation. Christopher Go, Cebu, Philippines

I want to point out that Go's animation doesn't actually show any motion of the storm that we can see; all of the apparent motion is just from the very rapid rotation of Saturn. Still, it's an incredible amount of detail captured from more than 1.3 billion kilometers away, a distance almost 700 times greater than Cassini's distance from Saturn when it took the photo at the top of this entry.

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