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NASA Craft Gets Close Views Of Large Saturn Hurricane

posted 30 Apr 2013, 06:33 by Mpelembe   [ updated 30 Apr 2013, 06:33 ]

NASA's Cassini spacecraft captures the first close-up images of a giant hurricane churning around Saturn's north pole.

 IN SPACE () (NASA) -  Stunning images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft provide the first close-up, visible-light views of a massive hurricane churning around Saturn's north pole.

According to NASA, the hurricane's eye is about 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) wide, 20 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth.

The hurricane swirls inside a six-sided weather pattern known as the hexagon while thin clouds surround the outer edge of the hurricane, traveling at 330 mph(150 meters per second).

Exactly how long the massive storm has been churning remains unknown, but scientists believe it's been active for years. Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer and visual and infrared mapping spectrometer detected a great vortex in 2004, but the spacecraft was unable to obtain visible-light views because Saturn's north pole was dark as the planet was in the middle of its north polar winter, said NASA.

Visible-light views of the hurricane were seen in August 2009 after the passing of the equinox flooded the planet's northern hemisphere with sunlight.

Scientists will use the hurricane on Saturn to study hurricanes on Earth that feed off warm ocean water. While there is no water close to the clouds on Saturn, scientist hope an understanding into how storm systems on the second-largest planet use water vapor will shed light on how terrestrial hurricanes are created.