Strongest Lightning Storm on Record Strikes
Still unsure of the cause, scientists have detected the strongest lightning storm on Saturn through Cassini Spacecraft’s Radio and Plasma Wave Science Instrument. Yes, you were probably busy playing your favourite online slot games when this happened.
How does Lightning Strike?
Think of it from the perspective of static energy. You’re rubbing your rubber-soled shoes on the carpet and touch a metal knob. That’s static energy you felt.
Similarly, Lightning begins as static energy between the clouds, these clouds are charged negatively and positively. This results in tension between the particles and within the cloud, thus the cloud looks for the easiest path to release that charge.
What you must know is there are two types of lightning. One that occurs inside or in between the clouds and second that falls straight down to the ground.
How does it Thunder?
As we know, light travels faster than sound this is why we first see the lightning which is then followed by the thunder. A common misconception is that the sound we hear comes from the lightning bolt itself, however, that is false. The sound we hear comes from the rapid expansion of air that is caused due to the bolt tearing through it to the nearest exit point to dispose of its charge. And since light travels so quickly the air around the bolt gets no time to adjust with it and the result is the sound we hear, thunder.
What was the Intensity of the Lightning Storm?
The lightning bolts were 1000 times stronger than what see on Earth, and according to a team member at the University of Iowa, Georg Fischer these lightning storms can emerge out of the blue and can last for several weeks.
The storm is known to cover an area that is as big as a central part of the US. The area is popularly known as the ‘Storm Alley’ because Cassini has observed multiple storms in the same region since it’s arrival at Saturn in 2014.
More about Cassini-Huygens
Commonly known as Cassini, this is a space research mission that investigates Saturn along with its unnatural rings and its natural satellites. Cassini was the first probe that successfully entered the planet’s orbit and landed on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.
The probe got its name from the astronomers Giovanni Cassini and Christiaan Huygens and was active in space for at least 20 years.
What Causes Such Powerful Storms?
The exact reason remains uncertain however research suggests that the difference between the sunlit and shaded portions of the planet and its infamous rings are to blame for these prevailing occurrences.
As Cassini was surfacing on the planet’s night side when the storm struck, there are no distinctive images of the lightning yet the scientists were able to capture audio of the thunder. However, the scientists asked astronomers if they’d observed anything strange in the expected region and within a few hours, two amateurs reported their sightings of a strange white cloud near the same area.