Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Signs in the heavens: Saturn's huge storm

If you got a telescope for Christmas, you are in luck. The two largest planets in our solar system are now putting on an exciting show for observers. Jupiter's Equatorial Belt, which disappeared last year, is back. And Saturn is having a massive storm of its own, as the Cassini fly-by revealed. Veteran planet-watcher Thomas Dobbins notes the last time such a large storm appeared on Saturn was 1994.

From Wired Science: "The storm has a huge central funnel and a long tail that sweeps around Saturn’s northern hemisphere for tens of thousands of miles. A shot in blue light (left) reveals the extent of the tail, but infrared light (right) shows detail of the storm’s amorphous core." 

The storm is 12 times bigger than the east coast blizzard. It appears regularly, except when it doesn't appear regularly, lol. "The Great White Spot is the lesser known, Saturnian equivalent of Jupiter's Great Red Spot. It's the name given to periodic storms that flare up about every 28.5 years, previously showing up in 1876, 1903, 1933, 1960, and 1990. As such, we shouldn't be expecting another appearance until around 2018, although huge, Spot-like storms do occasionally show up at times that don't fit the cycle, including 1994 and 2006."

As for Jupiter, the brown stripe across its southern hemisphere that disappeared suddenly in May 2010 ("NASA: Big mystery- Jupiter loses its stripe") just as mysteriously, has reappeared. "After fading out earlier this year, a large brown stripe on Jupiter is returning, according to astronomers. The stripe, known officially as the Southern Equatorial Belt had blended with the white clouds surrounding it. Now an amateur astronomer has said the belt is undergoing an outbreak and will soon return to its previous appearance. Experts say that the disappearance of the belt was the result of layers of clouds over Jupiter changing altitudes and that the brown strip had been covered up earlier in the year by the white-coloured ammonia clouds surrounding it. The brown stripe has occasionally vanished several times since it has been under observation, but scientists have yet to pinpoint exactly why it continues persist."

In other recent science news, an extinct comet is coming back to life, the red in Jupiter's Great Red Spot not what astronomers thought, scientists discovered they were wrong about neanderthals, the solar minimum lasted so long scientists had a hard time explaining, and oh yes, delaying sex makes for better relationships. Man - 0. God - ∞.

There were many other interesting science news articles this year that do illustrate man's capabilities in finding, learning, and explaining the world and outer space. But there were just as many that illustrated that what man had previously thought was being shaken to its core, and that in reality, there is much to learn. Our body of knowledge, though increasing, is flawed. God is not. His Word is perfect and contains much knowledge for how to live, economics, science, matters of government, and inter-relationships. Jesus said that in advance of His coming, "There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea." (Luke 21:25). He gives us our brains, and curiosity and the tools to discover Him in space, but when we lift up our brains and the tools above Him and worship them instead, He shows us just how infinite He is, and how in control.


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