Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University.
This image, captured by the Cassini orbiter in March 2011, shows a massive storm brewing in Saturn’s atmosphere.
The storm, which first developed in December 2010, is moving from right to left in this image with a large vortex to the centre.
To the naked eye this storm would appear as a bright area against a yellow background, but the colours have been enhanced to highlight the complex atmospheric movements within the storm. The white area corresponds to the highest cloud tops, and is also the area of most turbulent activity.
If a storm this size occurred on Earth it would completely cover Europe. Such storms are common on Saturn, and occur about once a year on Saturn, the equivalent of 30 years on Earth. However most storms occur during Saturn’s summer; this event occurred in Saturn’s northern hemisphere during the hemisphere’s spring.
Cassini also monitored the temperature of the storm, and recorded a rapid spike as energy was released into the atmosphere.
Read more from the European Space Agency.
Read more about the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn.