Feeds

'Snowmageddon' on Saturn snapped by amateur stargazers

Gigantic ammonia blizzard storms of the ringed giant

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
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.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.