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Saturn Northern Storm Is a Record

11/18/2011 08:00 PM ET

Saturn Storm - Storms on Saturn make the ones we moan about on Earth seem positively puny, and this year’s northern storm is a record-breaker, even by the standards of the gas giant’s legendarily foul weather.

The weather event has been raging for 200 days. It encircles the planet, and breaks a record set by a 1903 storm which battered Saturn for five months.

This NASA image from the Cassini spacecraft shows the tail of Saturn’s huge northern storm, top. The storm’s 200-day active period also makes it the longest-lasting planet-encircling storm ever seen on Saturn, breaking a record set in 1903

The large disturbance imaged 21 years ago by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, and comparable in size to the current storm, lasted for only 55 days.

Like Jupiter, Saturn is made mostly of hydrogen and helium. Its volume is 755 times greater than that of Earth. Winds in the upper atmosphere reach 1,600 feet per second in the equatorial region, by comparison, the strongest hurricane-force winds on Earth top out at 60 feet per second.

These super-fast winds, combined with heat rising from within the planet’s interior, cause the yellow and gold bands visible in the atmosphere.

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