Feeds

'Snowmageddon' on Saturn snapped by amateur stargazers

Gigantic ammonia blizzard storms of the ringed giant

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

A tip-off from an amateur astronomer has enabled top planet-gazing boffins to probe a fearful ammonia snowstorm deep in the roiling atmosphere of Saturn, ringed giant world of the outer solar system.

The storm that Cassini caught. The red boxes are where the instrument looked. Credit: C Go/NASA

Cassini happened to be looking in the right place to catch this one.

The terrifically intense storm, according to NASA boffins studying it using the Cassini space probe in orbit around Saturn, churned seldom-seen phosphine up from the planet's internal deeps and chilled the base of the ringed giant's stratosphere visibly.

"A balloonist floating about 100 kilometers down from the bottom of Saturn's calm stratosphere would experience an ammonia-ice blizzard with the intensity of Snowmageddon," said Brigette Hesman, Cassini boffin.

"These blizzards appear to be powered by violent storms deeper down - perhaps another 100 to 200 kilometers down - where lightning has been observed and the clouds are made of water and ammonia."

Another storm snapped by Anthony Wesley from Australia. Credit: A Wesley

The one that got away.

But the Cassini brainboxes would never have realised that their instruments had scanned the storm without the help of amateur sky-watchers peering through their home telescopes. It was a picture from Christopher Go, who lives in the Philippines, which tipped the NASA scientists off regarding the storm. The pic was sent in by Go's fellow enthusiast Anthony Wesley - who last year was the first to detect an impact spot on Jupiter.

"We were so excited to get a heads-up from the amateurs," said Gordon Bjoraker, a boffin. "Data from the storm cell would have been averaged out [if they hadn't given us the nod]."

A NASA statement describes the Cassini snowstorm scoop as "the most detailed data to date" on Saturnian storms. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.