A Strong Decrease in Saturn's Equatorial Winds

Saturn – one of the windiest planets – has recently had an unexpected and dramatic change in weather: its equatorial winds have subsided from a rapid 1700 km/hr during the Voyager spacecraft flybys in 1980-81 to a modest 990 km/hr from 1996 to 2002. Using Hubble Space Telescope (HST) images of the ringed giant planet, a Spanish-American team (A. Sánchez-Lavega, S. Pérez-Hoyos, J. F. Rojas and R. Hueso from Universidad País Vasco in Bilbao, and R. G. French from Wellesley College in Massachusets), has detected this slow-down in the winds by measuring the motions of cloud features and storm systems on the ringed giant planet, as they report in the June 5 issue of Nature (Vol. 423, page 623).

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Additional material

The changing wind profile of Saturn (Jpg 185 kb).

The HST wind profile for the period 1996-2002 can found as Supplementary information in the Nature website. The Voyager profile for the period 1980-1981 can be found here (after Sánchez-Lavega, Rojas and Sada, Icarus, 147, 405-420, 2000). Icarus Article

Solar irradiation and Ring shadow effect (Gif 48 kb).

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Created: 05-June-2003 Updated: 24-June-2003