A raging storm on Saturn, larger and stronger than any previously observed by NASA's two Voyager flybys or the currently operating Cassini orbiter, has now been captured in new false-color images. A mosaic of 84 pictures was taken by the latter probe's narrow-angle camera over a period of about five hours on February 26.
False, or representative, color helps scientists visualize data in wavelengths they cannot see. The colors used for Saturn's storm clouds represent different altitudes: blue indicates the highest, yellow and white are those at high altitudes, green shows intermediate layers, red and brown low altitude, and deep blue reveals a thin haze with no clouds below.
Lightning is generated at the base of the clouds. The storm generated more than 10 lightning flashes per second at its most intense, according to NASA. The still-active storm was first detected in early December and covers an area eight times the surface area of Earth.
Cassini's imaging team leader Carolyn Porco wrote in a recent Captain's Log blog that recording "this major Saturnian event in detail [is] a space exploration first!"