The Rings Of Saturn

YOU ARE CRUiSiNG in the troposphere of Saturn under the most magnificent ring structure in the solar system. Few sights are more astounding. The white, icy rings soar 75,000 kilometers above your head. Ring shine illuminates everything around you. No fewer than six crescent moons rise in the sky. The light from the setting sun scatters against a mist of ammonia crystals, forming a sun dog. You are buffeted by ammonia clouds that stream by you at speeds greater than 1,500 kilometers an hour. These are some of the fastest winds in the solar system. More than 30,000 kilometers below you, with pressures no human-made thing could survive, is a global ocean of liquid metallic hydrogen. There will be no landing on this planet.


SHEER SCALE of the solar system's largest anticyclone is difficult for a traveler to grasp. From this vantage point, only a small part of Jupiter's Great Red Spot {left) can be seen. It rises at least eight kilometers above the surrounding clouds. Lightning bolts that could pulverize a city crackle at its base into the lower clouds. Winds at the outer edge of the anticyclone swirl at more than 400 kilometers an hour. The spot completes a full counterclockwise rotation once every seven days. The turbulence created by this mega storm is brutal, the sound, deafening. At least two planets the size of Earth could fit inside this monstruous storm, which has been spinning in Jupiter's southern hemisphere for at least 400 years. There is no sign that it will stop.

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