Astronomers have detected a warm hurricane in the northern hemisphere on the ring planet, but from now on calm will return.
As on our planet, there are seasons on Saturn. This is because Saturn’s axis – like the Earth’s axis – is tilted. At one moment the northern hemisphere is facing the sun, and the next moment it is the southern hemisphere. However, seasons last much longer on a circular planet. It takes Saturn thirty years to orbit the Sun, which means it has winter for more than seven years.
The change of seasons has a huge impact on the planet. We announced earlier this year that the speaker was now visible in Ring B again. These mysterious phenomena were actually photographed by Voyager 1 in the 1980s, but no explanation has been found until now. Now British scientists have once again discovered changes on the ring planet.
The research team from Leicester used the MIRI instrument on the James Webb Telescope to study Saturn’s atmosphere in infrared light. This gave the team a good picture of temperatures, cloudiness and gas concentrations in the atmosphere, also known as the stratosphere. Images show a warm tornado 1,500 km wide in the Arctic. A larger area of warm gases appears around it: the so-called Arctic Stratospheric Vortex. As the fall equinox approaches, the Northern Hemisphere’s vortices will cool and dissipate.
This is the first time that scientists have been able to properly observe the transition from summer to fall in Saturn’s northern hemisphere. Thirty years ago there was no super telescope like the James Webb. And the Cassini spacecraft? It did not reach the ring planet until a decade later.
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