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Space News: Storms That Last a Century? They Only persist on Saturn For That Long

Megastorms, which are similar to hurricanes on Earth but considerably larger, happen on Saturn about every 20 to 30 years. (Photo: PBS)

The Great Red Spot, an anticyclone with a diameter of 10,000 miles, is the largest storm in the solar system and has been adorning Jupiter’s surface the last a century.

New study reveals Saturn has megastorms that last a century with persistent impacts for centuries. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

According to a recent study, Saturn also has megastorms that last a century with impacts deep in the atmosphere, despite being much duller and less colorful than Jupiter, it does last a century.

Researchers from the Universities of California, Berkeley, and Michigan, Ann Arbor, examined the planet’s radio emissions, which originate below the surface, and discovered long-term disruptions in the ammonia gas distribution.

In the journal Science Advances, the study that says megastorms on saturn last a century was released today.

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Megastorms, which are similar to hurricanes on Earth but considerably larger and longer that last a century, happen on Saturn about every 20 to 30 years. 

Imke de Pater, emerita professor of astronomy and earth and planetary sciences at UC Berkeley, has been researching gas giants for more than 40 years in an effort to better understand their makeup and what makes them special. She uses the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array in New Mexico to look for radio emissions coming from the planet’s core.

“At radio wavelengths, we investigate giant planets’ hidden cloud layers. Observations below these cloud layers are necessary to constrain the planet’s true atmospheric composition, a crucial factor for planet formation models because chemical reactions and dynamics will change the composition of a planet’s atmosphere, the researcher said. The global and local scales of dynamical, physical, and chemical processes in the atmospheres of giant planets, such as heat transport, cloud formation, and convection, are characterized by radio observations.

The study reveals that Saturn and Jupiter are made of hydrogen gas, but they differ significantly in their tropospheric anomalies. Jupiter’s anomalies are tied to its zones and belts, not storms like Saturn’s. This difference challenges scientists’ understanding of megastorm formation and may influence exoplanet studies.

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