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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