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Saturn burps: Cassini spacecraft captures record-setting event

October 25, 2012|By Amy Hubbard
  • The disturbance from a huge storm that wrapped all the way around Saturn can be seen in an image from the Cassini spacecraft. Clouds in the northern hemisphere have been colored red, orange and green to show their detail. The image was taken at the tail end of a massive 2010-11 storm.
The disturbance from a huge storm that wrapped all the way around Saturn… (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space…)

Saturn burped and the Cassini spacecraft was on hand to witness it.

The spacecraft, orbiting Saturn, has gathered data on a two-year-long storm that wrapped all the way around the planet -- followed by a record-setting 150-degree temperature spike and a massive burp of ethylene gas.

It was a mega-belch of energy, according to NASA -- "100 times more ethylene than scientists thought possible for Saturn."

PHOTOS: Awesome images from space

Simultaneously, the temperature at the site of the release shot up to minus 64 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The study's lead author, Brigette Hesman, a scientist at the University of Maryland, said, "To get a temperature change of the same scale on Earth, you'd be going from the depths of winter in Fairbanks, Alaska, to the height of summer in the Mojave Desert."

Scientists from NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Md., will report on the unprecedented belch in a paper in the Nov. 20 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

Nation Now will have more later today about this surprising storm on Saturn and its aftermath.

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