Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Revealed – the mystery of the gigantic storm on Saturn

25.06.2013
We now understand the nature of the giant storms on Saturn.

Through the analysis of images sent from the Cassini space probe belonging to the North American and European space agencies (NASA and ESA respectively), as well as the computer models of the storms and the examination of the clouds therein, the Planetary Sciences Group of the University of the Basque Country has managed to explain the behaviour of these storms for the very first time.

The article explaining the discovery, the lead author being Enrique García Melendo, researcher at the Fundació Observatori Esteve Duran – Institut de Ciències de l’Espai, of Catalonia, was published in Nature Geosciences.

Approximately once every Saturnian year - equivalent to 30 Earth years - an enormous storm is produced on the ringed planet and which affects the aspect of its atmosphere on a global scale. These gigantic storms are known as Great White Spots, due to the appearance they have on the atmosphere of the planet.

The first observation of one of these was made in 1876; the Great White Spot of 2010 was the sixth one to be observed. On this occasion the Cassini space vehicle was able to obtain very high resolution images of this great meteorological structure. The storm initiated as a small brilliant white cloud in the middle latitudes of the northern hemisphere of the planet, and grew rapidly and remained active for more than seven months.

Over this time an amalgam of white clouds was generated which expanded to form a cloudy and turbulent ring with a surface area of thousands of millions of square kilometres. Two year age the Planetary Sciences Group presented a first study of the storm and which was published on the front cover of Nature on the 7th of July, 2011. Now, with this new research, the hidden secrets of the phenomenon have been revealed, studying in detail the “head” and the “focus” of the Great White Spot.

The team of astronomers analysed the images taken from the Cassini probe in order to measure the winds in the “head” of the storm, the focus where the activity originated. In this region the storm interacts with the circulating atmosphere, forming very intense sustained winds, typically of 500 kilometres an hour. “We did not expect to find such violent circulation in the region of the development of the storm, which is a symptom of the particularly violent interaction between the storm and the planet’s atmosphere”, commented Enrique García. They were also able to determine that these storm clouds are at 40 km above the planet’s own clouds.

Information about the mechanisms causing meteorological phenomena

The research revealed the mechanism that produces this phenomenology. The team of scientists designed mathematical models capable of reproducing the storm on a computer, providing a physical explanation for the behaviour of this giant storm and for its lengthy duration. The calculations show that the focus of the storm is deeply embedded, some 300 km above the visible clouds. The storm transports enormous quantities of moist gas in water vapour to the highest levels of the planet, forming visible clouds and liberating enormous quantities of energy. This injection of energy interacts violently with the dominant wind of Saturn to produce wind storms of 500 km/h. The research also showed that, despite the enormous activity of the storm, this was not able to substantially modify the prevailing winds which blow permanently in the same direction as the Earth’s parallels, but they did interact violently with them. An important part of the computer’s calculations were made thanks to the Centre de Serveis Científics i Acadèmics de Catalunya (CESCA), and the computer services at the Institut de Ciències de l’Espai (ICE), also based in the Catalan capital of Barcelona.

Apart from the curiosity of knowing the physical processes underlying the formation of these giant storms on Saturn, the study of these phenomena enable us to enhance our knowledge of the models employed in research into meteorology and the behaviour of the Earth’s atmosphere, in a very different environment and impossible to simulate in a laboratory. “The storms on Saturn are, in a way, a test bank of the physical mechanisms underlying the generation of similar meteorological phenomena on Earth”, commented Agustín Sánchez Lavega, Director of the Planetary Sciences Group at the UPV/EHU.

Reference

E. García-Melendo, R. Hueso, A. Sánchez-Lavega, J. Legarreta, T. del Río-Gaztelurrutia, S. Pérez-Hoyos, J. F. Sanz-Requena. Atmospheric Dynamics of Saturn’s 2010 giant storm. Nature Goescience, 2013, DOI 10.1038/ngeo1860.

Astrofisika, Astronomia

Oihane Lakar Iraizoz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.elhuyar.com

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Sediment from Himalayas may have made 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake more severe
26.05.2017 | Oregon State University

nachricht Devils Hole: Ancient Traces of Climate History
24.05.2017 | Universität Innsbruck

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>