Seeing Saturnian Spots
For centuries, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot has been observed with awe by telescopic observers around the world. Its brick-red color and enormous size has fascinated planetary scientists who have struggled to comprehend why it has persisted for so long. But Jupiter is not the only world that displays giant spots. Saturn also has thrown up a few surprises over the years. Every 27–30 years or so, Saturn’s atmosphere roils with giant, planet-encircling thunderstorms that produce intense lightning and enormous cloud disturbances. The head of one of these storms – popularly called “great white spots,” in analogy to the Great Red Spot of Jupiter – can be as large as Earth. Unlike Jupiter’s spot though, which is calm at the center and has no lightning, the Saturnian spots are active in the center and have long tails that eventually wrap around the planet (Fig. 38.1).
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