Cassini Sees Lightning on Saturn

PASADENA, Calif., April 14 (UPI) — The U.S. space agency says its Cassini spacecraft has captured images of lightning on Saturn — the first recording of lightning flashing on another planet.

Scientists said they were able to create a movie, complete with a soundtrack that features the crackle of radio waves emitted when lightning bolts struck.


“This is the first time we have the visible lightning flash together with the radio data,” said Georg Fischer, a radio and plasma wave scientist at the Space Research Institute in Graz, Austria. “Now that the radio and visible light data line up, we know for sure we are seeing powerful lightning storms.”

NASA said the data suggest extremely powerful storms with lightning that flashes as brightly as the brightest super-bolts on Earth.

“What’s interesting is that the storms are as powerful — or even more powerful — at Saturn as on Earth,” said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging science subsystem team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “But they occur much less frequently, with usually only one happening on the planet at any given time, though it can last for months.”

The first images of lightning were captured last August during a storm that churned from January to October — lasting longer than any other observed lightning storm in the solar system.

The lightning study is to be reported in an upcoming issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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Categorized | Other, Solar
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