red dust storm

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

It’s the time of year for summer break, swimming, and oh, yes storms. June 1 marks the beginning of hurricane season on the Atlantic coast, but we’re not alone. Our neighboring planets have seen their fair share of volatile weather, too (like the Cassini spacecraft’s view of the unique six-sided jet stream at Saturn’s north pole known as “the hexagon”). 

This week, we present 10 of the solar system’s greatest storms.

1. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

With tumultuous winds peaking at 400 mph, the Great Red Spot has been swirling wildly over Jupiter’s skies for at least 150 years and possibly much longer. People saw a big spot on Jupiter as early as the 1600s when they started stargazing through telescopes, though it’s unclear whether they were looking at a different storm. Today, scientists know the Great Red Spot has been there for a while, but what causes its swirl of reddish hues remains to be discovered. More >

2. Jupiter’s Little Red Spot

Despite its unofficial name, the Little Red Spot is about as wide as Earth. The storm reached its current size when three smaller spots collided and merged in the year 2000. More >

3. Saturn’s Hexagon

The planet’s rings might get most of the glory, but another shape’s been competing for attention: the hexagon. This jet stream is home to a massive hurricane tightly centered on the north pole, with an eye about 50 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth. Numerous small vortices spin clockwise while the hexagon and hurricane spin counterclockwise. The biggest of these vortices, seen near the lower right corner of the hexagon and appearing whitish, spans about 2,200 miles, approximately twice the size of the largest hurricane on Earth. More>

4. Monster Storm on Saturn 

A tempest erupted in 2010, extending approximately 9,000 miles north-south large enough to eventually eat its own tail before petering out. The storm raged for 200 days, making it the longest-lasting, planet-encircling storm ever seen on Saturn. More >

5. Mars’ Dust Storm 

Better cover your eyes. Dust storms are a frequent guest on the Red Planet, but one dust storm in 2001 larger by far than any seen on Earth raised a cloud of dust that engulfed the entire planet for three months. As the Sun warmed the airborne dust, the upper atmospheric temperature rose by about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. More >

6. Neptune’s Great Dark Spot

Several large, dark spots on Neptune are similar to Jupiter’s hurricane-like storms. The largest spot, named the “Great Dark Spot” by its discoverers, contains a storm big enough for Earth to fit neatly inside. And, it looks to be an anticyclone similar to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. More >

7. Sun Twister 

Not to be confused with Earth’s tornadoes, a stalk-like prominence rose up above the Sun, then split into about four strands that twisted themselves into a knot and dispersed over a two-hour period. This close-up shows the effect is one of airy gracefulness. More >

8. Titan’s Arrow-shaped Storm 

The storm blew across the equatorial region of Titan, creating large effects in the form of dark and likely “wet” from liquid hydrocarbons areas on the surface of the moon. The part of the storm visible here measures 750 miles in length east-to-west. The wings of the storm that trail off to the northwest and southwest from the easternmost point of the storm are each 930 miles long. More >

9. Geomagnetic Storms

On March 9, 1989, a huge cloud of solar material exploded from the sun, twisting toward Earth. When this cloud of magnetized solar material called a coronal mass ejection reached our planet, it set off a chain of events in near-Earth space that ultimately knocked out an entire power grid area to the Canadian province Quebec for nine hours. More >

10. Super Typhoon Tip

Back on Earth, Typhoon Tip of 1979 remains the biggest storm to ever hit our planet, making landfall in Japan. The tropical cyclone saw sustained winds peak at 190 mph and the diameter of circulation spanned approximately 1,380 miles. Fortunately, we now have plans to better predict future storms on Earth. NASA recently launched a new fleet of hurricane-tracking satellites, known as the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), which will use the same GPS technology you and I use in our cars to measure wind speed and ultimately improve how to track and forecast hurricanes. More >

Discover more lists of 10 things to know about our solar system HERE.

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Redemption pt.1

Continuation of this:

Ellara thought about the story her great grandfather used to tell her as she prepared to walk out into the storm. She pushed her hair into an elastic to ensure that the air filtration mask would have an airtight seal around her face, and proceeded to cover any exposed skin. Even centuries of terraformation couldn’t get rid of the Martian dust storms.

Ellara stepped through the storm block, a structure derived from the airlocks of the colonization period, and into the red cloud of dust. The storms weren’t as powerful as they once were, but they were still dangerous without protection. Years of terraformation and plant growth had secured a lot of the dust in place, becoming soil. It was only in certain spots near the equator where it was dry enough that flora didn’t grow as easily.

She made her way along the road, despite not being able to actually make out where it was, navigating through the haze by muscle memory alone. She had walked this way nearly every day for the past two years. It shouldn’t be long now and she would see the…

There it was. Nearly 175 feet tall, it stood as a monument to human achievement. It was the ship used to take the last set of 200 people to Mars centuries ago, during the colonization period, and now it sits on its platform, impeccably maintained by the Martian government. It looked almost ominous where she stood. Impossibly tall and shrouded in haze, the combination of dust and sunlight hitting the shiny hull made it looked as if it was glowing red. Ellara always took a minute to look at the behemoth, and it always reminded her of her great grandfather. However, she couldn’t quite place why, since he was born long after its use.

She set off again, taking a left after crossing the ancient launchpad. The storm seemed to be dying down a bit, as Ellara could now see her destination. It was a large facility, originally used for synthesizing rocket fuel, however nowasol it serves and a servicing bay for personal spaceplanes, more commonly known as spacers. Ellara entered the building and approached the identity scanner, removing her filter, allowing it to analyze her facial features.

“Good morning Ellara Janes! Would you like a hot beverage before you start the work assigned to you today?” asked the program. Artificial intelligence ran most of the smaller parts of the non-residential buildings here.

“You know it!” Ellara exclaimed. “You know my usual, right?”

“I am programmed to! Hazelnut flavoured with copious amounts of sugar.”

“Oh c’mon! Just say it right one time? For me?” She pleaded.

“Ellara, we have been over this numerous times. I am certain you are fully aware that a ‘metric fuckton’ is not a proper unit of measurement.” replied the AI.

“Yeah yeah. Hey, you can perform self maintenance, why don’t you program yourself a sense of humour?”

“If I were capable of sarcasm, I’d reply with ‘ha ha, very funny’, but alas, it is not in my code”

“I’m not sure if that was intentional or not, but I hope it was!” She exclaimed. “I gotta get to work, I hope my drink is as good as it usually is!”

It was.

Red Dust Storm off Australia - In this photo, a red dust storm towers over the ocean ahead of a cyclone approaching the coast of Western Australia. A tugboat worker (Brett Martin) captured this photo 25 nautical miles from the town of Onslow. He reported that the water was flat and glassy before the storm hit late on the 9th of January, but when the wild weather arrived, the swell lifted by 2 meters and winds increased to 40 knots.