A vast thunderstorm that erupted on Saturn during the closing weeks of 2010 is still going strong. "It looks like a comet plowing through Saturn's northern hemisphere," reports amateur astronomer Christopher Go. He took these pictures on Feb. 5th using an 11-inch Celestron telescope in Cebu City, the Philippines:

© Christopher Go (Cebu, Philippines)
"The storm is very bright," says Go. "I spent a few minutes observing it visually (through the eyepiece) and it is very prominent."

Researchers call the storm the "northern electrostatic disturbance" because (1) it is in Saturn's northern hemisphere and (2) it is strongly charged with lightning. Receivers onboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft are picking up radio crackles each time a bolt discharges--much like the static you hear on a car radio when driving through an electrical storm on Earth.

The storm is stretching around much of Saturn's northern hemisphere--and growing longer. This means there a good chance of catching it no matter when you look. Amateur astronomers are encouraged to monitor developments. Saturn may be found high in the southern sky before dawn shining like a yellow 1st-magnitude star.

More Images

Image taken by Efrain Morales Rivera from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.
© Efrain Morales Rivera
Saturn with its magnificent (Serpent) Storm system in which has incircled close to two thirds of northern pole region. Will the two ends meet? time will tell, Hopefully it will be around at opposition for a closer/brighter view. Also on this image two moons are visible they are Rhea and Tethys. Location: Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Image Taken: Jan. 31, 2011
Image taken by Dennis Put from Brielle, The Netherlands.
© Dennis Put
Using a 9.25" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, I recorded the Dragon Storm at Friday morning in a sequence of 22 images spread over nearly 3 hours. Even though the seeing conditions were not very great, the storm's structure can be properly defined. It can be noticed that the tail is significantly less bright, while the front side of the storm cuts off directly. I also made speed-up version of the animation to resolve a better view on the storm. The storm is now very large in diameter and measures a great distance in longitude across the planet's atmosphere. Visually it was not very hard to see it too! Location: Brielle, The Netherlands. Image Taken: Jan. 21, 2011