September 15, 2009
The longest continuously observed thunderstorm in the solar system has been roiling Saturn's atmosphere since mid-January and is still churning now, according to a presentation by a Cassini team scientist at the European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam, Germany.
A team led by Georg Fischer, a scientist at the Austrian Academy of Sciences has been using Cassini's Radio and Plasma Wave Science instrument to measure the powerful radio waves emitted by Saturn's lightning storms. The radio waves from these storms help scientists study Saturn's ionosphere, the charged layer that surrounds the planet above the cloud tops.
The most recent storm has evolved around the latitude of 35 degrees south, an area nicknamed "storm alley." The previous record for observed storms also came from Saturn, when a different storm thundered for seven-and-a-half months from the end of Nov. 2007 until mid-July 2008 (pictured).
For more information about NASA's Cassini mission please visit: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/