Saturn's Dragon Storm
The mysteries of Saturn’s
atmospheric behavior continue to mount as scientists puzzle
over a massive "thunderstorm" that has remained fixed in
place since it first appeared in 2004.
Most people assume that meteorologists understand the
weather. But this is not really so. For instance, if one
were to ask a meteorologist what causes lightning on Earth,
the only honest answer he or she could give would be, "We're
not sure." Dr. Martin Uman, author of numerous books on
lightning, takes the conventional view that charge buildup
required for lightning comes from vertical movement of
droplets in a thundercloud. But he confesses that the
process occurs "in a way or ways not yet fully understood."
If meteorologists don’t “fully understand” terrestrial
lightning, what are the chances they can explain the
“surprise” of lightning on other planets? As Dr. Bill Kurth
of the University of Iowa says, " we have some preconceived
notions about how lightning works at Earth and we can go to
places that don’t have an abundance of water like we have in
our atmosphere and if we happen to find lightning there then
we have to explain what it is that makes lightning work
there if we don’t have water."
In November 1980 and August 1981, two Voyager Spacecraft
observed an intense storm near Saturn's equator with high
winds (1,100 miles per hour) and continuous lightning. More
than twenty years later, in 2004, NASA's Cassini spacecraft
spotted an electrical storm with lightning bolts that are
1,000 times stronger than those on Earth. The charged storm
was detected in Saturn's southern hemisphere, in the
appropriately labeled "storm alley" region. The storm (the
size of the continental United States) stretched 2,175 miles
from north to south.
The storm presented Cassini scientists with a number of
enigmas. It is apparently a long-lived storm that has
attached itself to one area and occasionally flares up
dramatically. But why one area, which is hardly to be
expected if Saturn is a mere ball of liquid and gas? The
investigators could not explain why the radio bursts would
always start while the Dragon Storm was below the horizon on
the night side and end when it was on the dayside.
Intriguingly, the Dragon Storm arose in an area of Saturn's
atmosphere that had earlier produced large, bright
convective storms. Mission scientists concluded, "the Dragon
Storm is a giant thunderstorm whose precipitation generates
electricity as it does on Earth. The storm may be deriving
its energy from Saturn's deep atmosphere."
From an Electric Universe perspective, this conclusion
simply repeats the inversion of cause and effect in standard
explanations of terrestrial lightning. In the EU model as
elaborated by Wallace Thornhill and others, thunderstorms
themselves are electric discharge phenomena driven by the
circuits that link planets to the Sun and the Sun to the
galaxy. (See Thornhill's analysis of the Dragon Storm
It seems inexplicable under a traditional meteorological
model that a storm would attach itself to one place
(particularly on a planet that is thought not to have a
solid surface) and sporadically burst to life. But as noted
by Thornhill, “the Electric Universe model of stars and
planets provides the possibility of a solid surface on the
giant planets. And as we find on Earth, a solid surface
allows for regional electrical differences that favor
electrical storm activity in one region over another. A good
example is ‘tornado alley’ in the southern U.S.A.”
Thornhill describes the twin spiraling formations as
miniatures of “spiral galaxies,” and he sees these as “the
effects of the interaction of Birkeland current pairs,” just
as was demonstrated in the computer simulations of spiral
galaxy formation by Anthony Peratt described in an earlier
Picture of the Day. If this is so, the megalightning
discharges are occurring within the Dragon Storm.
Thornhill argues that the enigmatic switching off of the
radio bursts as the storm enters daylight mimics the morning
appearance and subsequent fading of the mysterious "spokes,"
seen occasionally in Saturn's rings. In the EU model, the
two phenomena are connected because the spokes are formed by
radial discharges to a huge current ring circulating beyond
the rings. The discharges travel across the rings at the
speed of lightning from the ionosphere, where they draw
electrical energy via the storm. The discharges shoot
charged ring particles out of the ring plane, in a form of
thunderclap, throwing a shadow on the rings. The fading of
both the spokes and the storm signals as Saturn rotates into
daylight are probably a result of the circuit, which links
the morning and evening terminators.
The significance of the storm’s title will not be lost to
those familiar with the Thunderbolts group’s exploration of
ancient myth and folklore relating to plasma discharge
configurations in the ancient sky. Dragon-like monsters
soaring across the heavens rank among the most enigmatic and
fanciful icons of the ancient cultures. These mythical
reptiles come adorned with feathers or wings, sprouting
long-flowing hair and fiery, lightning-like emanations.
Every detail of such beasts defies naturalistic reasoning.
Yet accounts from widely separated cultures attribute many
identical features to these biological absurdities.
The spiraling shape of
dragons and serpents in mythology and ancient art are
strikingly similar to plasma instabilities in the laboratory
and in space—all reminding us of the metamorphosing,
life-like qualities of plasma phenomena. And it should be no
surprise that ancient images of the dragon are intimately
associated with the same configurations of electrified
plasma that we see in megalightning on Saturn today.
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