Saturn's never-ending thunderstorm sets solar record

NASA's Cassini satellite watched the storm that began in January 2009 and is still blasting away.

Jupiters lighting storm
If you are a fan of big lightning storms then take a look at Saturn, it has had one blasting away since January, setting the solar system record for thunderstorm longevity. 

NASA's Cassini satellite watched the storm that began in January 2009 and is still cranking, in an area scientists call "Storm Alley," which lies 35 degrees south of Saturn's equator. The storm has broken the record duration of 7.5 months set by another thunderstorm observed on Saturn by the same NASA satellite between November 2007 and July 2008. 

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Lightning discharges in Saturn's atmosphere emit very powerful radio waves, which are measured by the antennas and receivers of the Cassini Radio and Plasma Wave Science instrument.  The radio waves from these storms help scientists study Saturn's ionosphere, the charged layer that surrounds the planet above the cloud tops, NASA stated. 

The radio waves are about 10,000 times stronger than their terrestrial counterparts and originate from huge thunderstorms in Saturn's atmosphere with diameters around 3000 km, according to scientists. This storm is bigger than Australia observers say.   

"The reason why we see lightning in this peculiar location is not completely clear. It could be that this latitude is one of the few places in Saturn's atmosphere that allow large-scale vertical convection of water clouds, which is necessary for thunderstorms to develop. However, it may be a seasonal effect said Dr. Georg Fischer of the Austrian Academy of Sciences at the European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam, Germany this week. 

Lighting on earth has grabbed some headlines recently.  In August, university scientists captured a picture of huge blasts of lightning known as gigantic jets that can shoot upwards over 40 miles from thunderstorms. 

Scientists at Duke University in North Carolina said the rarely seen and even more rarely photographed -- images of gigantic jets have only been recorded on five occasions since 2001-can flash up to the lower levels of space, or ionosphere and are substantially larger than their downward striking cousins. 

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