Feeds

'Snowmageddon' on Saturn snapped by amateur stargazers

Gigantic ammonia blizzard storms of the ringed giant

High performance access to file storage

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. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Saturn spotted spawning new FEMTO-MOON
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.