CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (CBS Tampa/AP) — NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has captured stunning views of a monster hurricane at Saturn’s North Pole.
The eye of the cyclone is an enormous 1,250 miles across. That’s 20 times larger than the typical eye of a hurricane here on Earth. And it’s spinning super-fast. Clouds at the outer edge of the storm are whipping around at 330 mph.
“We did a double take when we saw this vortex because it looks so much like a hurricane on Earth,” Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said in a NASA statement. “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.”
The hurricane is parked at Saturn’s North Pole and relies on water vapor to keep it churning. It’s believed to have been there for years. Cassini only recently had a chance to observe the vortex in visible light.
“The polar hurricane has nowhere else to go, and that’s likely why it’s stuck at the pole,” Kunio Sayanagi, a Cassini imaging team associate at Hampton University in Hampton, Va., said.
Scientists hope to learn more about Earth’s hurricanes by studying this whopper at Saturn.
Cassini was launched from Cape Canaveral in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004.
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