Zooming Around with Zoe: Weather on Saturn

Weather

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — We have now sped to Saturn, the second-largest planet in the solar system. It may be known for its beautiful rings, but there’s a lot more happening on Saturn than meets the eye.

Saturn is mainly composed of hydrogen and helium. It’s the only planet with an average density less than water, meaning if you put the planet in a giant bathtub, it would actually float!

It has the second fastest winds in our solar system, taking only 10.7 hours to spin once around its axis and reaching up to 500 meters/sec. For reference, hurricanes on Earth top out at 110 meters/sec.

A thick layer of upper-level clouds obscures most of the storms on Saturn, so we can’t see exactly what goes on underneath. We do know the North Pole has a six-sided jet stream with a giant, rotating storm at the center. It’s almost a perfect hexagon – the only storm in the solar system like this.

Saturn also has huge electrical storms extending thousands of miles. Lightning bolts on Saturn are over 1,000 times stronger than those on Earth and create radio waves known as Saturn electrostatic discharge that makes this popping noise.

And did you know Saturn’s rings can actually influence it’s weather? When charged water droplets fall on the atmosphere, it actually has a cooling effect on those regions.

Every 30 years, Saturn experiences long-lived storms, similar to Jupiter’s Great Red spot, sometimes called the great white oval. Another fun fact: Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is the only moon in the solar system to have its own atmosphere.

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