Three of the Biggest Storms in Our Solar System that Don’t Mess Around4 min read

Mother nature can be unforgiving when it comes to a storm that can wipe out your city. However, storms on other planets play in a different league. Actually, you don’t have to go even out of our solar system to find these massive destructive storms. Let’s take a look at the three biggest storms in our solar system that do not mess around.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

Credit: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov

Credit: www.jpl.nasa.gov[/caption%5D

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a famous storm that’s been raging since at least 1831 and possibly 1665 (that storm doesn’t quit). The storm is so big that it can easily swallow the entire Earth! It comes in at about 24-40,000 km where Earth has a radius of 6,371 km. The storm has an altitude of 8 km above the surrounding cloud tops. Interestingly the storm rotates counter clockwise and can be clearly seen rotating differently in respect to the atmosphere. Sometimes the storm speeds up and sometimes slows down. How fast does it normally go? Try 400 km (250 miles) per hour! The source of the red coloration is still unknown but astronomers suggest it can range from compounds of sulfur and phosphorus to organic material. The storm isn’t anchored to any solid surface because of course Jupiter is a giant gas planet after all. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot could best be imagined as a humungous hurricane powered by the condensation of water, ammonia, or both at lower levels in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

[caption id="attachment_4953" align="aligncenter" width="640"]photomontage ©Michael Carroll) via www.UniverseToday.com A visual of Earth compared to the Giant Red Spot. photomontage ©Michael Carroll) via www.UniverseToday.com
A visual of Earth compared to the Giant Red Spot.

Saturn’s Hexagonal Storm

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

Saturn has often been one of the best planets to see through a telescope for beginners. It would be something to see in your lifetime for sure. However, behind that beige looking planet are some catastrophic storms swirling around. Jupiter has a few other storms that don’t get mentioned a lot but Saturn has two major storms that will blow your mind. However we will stick with just one for now. Today is all about the hexagonal storm and it’s located on Saturn’s North pole.

The eye of the storm is measured at 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) which is quite the monster of a storm. The altitude of this storm is 100 km (60 miles) down into the clouds. This hexagon was first seen by Voyager in 1981 and I’m sure it would be worth to see the expression it left on when astronomers first saw this. The wind speeds of this storm have been measured at 500 km per hour (330 miles per hour) which could definitely slap away anything in its way. Saturn’s hexagonal storm is not one to mess with and to drive the point home you can see what I mean with this close up on the eye of the storm.

Credit: NASA This was taken in the near infrared and in false color. Low clouds look red and higher clouds are in green.

Credit: NASA
This was taken in the near infrared and in false color. Low clouds look red and higher clouds are in green.

Sun‘s Solar Storms

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

Of course thinking about all the big storms in our solar system there is no way the Sun isn’t making the list. Located almost 149 million km from Earth the Sun can send some of the meanest coronal mass ejections the Solar System has ever seen. The way a coronal mass ejection happens is when the magnetic field lines get tangled up to form solar flares and occasionally become so warped that, like a rubber band under tension, snap and break then reconnect at other points. After that the Sun’s plasma is no longer bound to the surface and it explodes out into space. It takes several hours for the CME to detach itself from the sun but once it does it races away at speeds from 20 km per second to 3200 km second. Luckily for Earth it has a magnetic field that protects itself from these solar storms and the interaction produces a beautiful aurora. At the high point of the solar cycle there can be as many as 5 CME per day. Right now we are in a solar maximum and the Sun’s magnetic poles are actually switching. Don’t worry though this switch happens every 11 years and Earth has been fine when it happens. However, there is one event you should be scared of. It’s called the Carrington event or the Solar Superstorm of 1859.

Normally the journey of a CME would take roughly 4 days. This CME took only 17.6 hours to reach Earth! It was reported that the aurora’s lit up the entire world with brilliant colors that outshined the Moon. Telegraph systems reportedly went haywire and sparked discharges that shocked telegraph operators and even set the telegraph paper on fire. Not only that but when telegraphers disconnected the batteries powering the lines, aurora-induced electric currents in the wires still allowed messages to be transmitted! Let’s hope that we don’t experience a storm that intense and especially in a day and age where we depend on technology.

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