Like a snake swallowing its tail, a giant storm wrapped itself around Saturn in December and stuck around for more than 200 days. The Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn captured the thundering menace in images released by the Cassini team on November 17.
This false-color image, captured on January 12, depicts the tempest’s tail coiled around the northern hemisphere, marked by a giant hole torn into the deeper layers of Saturn’s atmosphere (blue oval in the upper left). Also visible is the shadow of Saturn’s tiny moon Enceladus (lower left beneath the rings [blue line]).
Scientists liken this storm to a volcanic explosion on Earth and are stumped by Saturn’s weather patterns, which seem to produce these outbursts every two or three decades.
Now the longest-lasting observed storm, the behemoth’s birth and evolution are revealed in a series of images that chronicle the storm’s evolution.