Scientists have noted small annual variations in Saturn's color bands. As the planet moves towards
Space telescope images of SaturnHubble in 2018, 2019 and 2020, when summer in the northern hemisphere of the planet turns into autumn. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
Slight color change from year to year,possibly related to the height of clouds and winds. Unsurprisingly, the changes are not huge, since only a small fraction of the year of Saturn is available for observation, the study authors note.
Hubble telescope data show that from 2018 toIn 2020, the equator has become 5-10% brighter, and the winds have changed slightly. In 2018, the wind speed measured near the equator was around 1,600 kilometers per hour. These wind figures are higher than those measured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft in 2004-2009. Then the wind speed was about 1300 kilometers per hour. In 2019 and 2020, they returned to their previous indicators. Saturn's winds also change with altitude. The change in their velocities could mean that the clouds in 2018 were about 60 kilometers deeper than those measured during the Cassini mission. Further observations are needed to understand what is happening, NASA said.
Saturn is the sixth planet in the solar system andorbits at a distance of about 1.4 billion km from the star. For the planet to orbit around it, it takes about 29 Earth years. As a result, each season on Saturn lasts more than seven Earth years. The Earth is tilted with respect to the Sun, which changes the amount of sunlight received by each hemisphere as the planet moves in its orbit. These fluctuations in solar energy are the driving force behind our seasonal changes. Saturn is also tilted, so as the seasons change in this distant world, changing sunlight is causing some of the observed atmospheric changes.
Like Jupiter, the largest planet in the Sunsystem, Saturn is a gas giant composed mainly of hydrogen and helium, although deep inside there may be a rocky core. Huge storms, some the size of the Earth, erupt from time to time from the depths of the atmosphere. Since many of the planets found around other stars are also gas giants, astronomers are keen to learn more about how the atmospheres of gas giants work.
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