The Storm That Coronated Saturn

She was difficult to miss and impossible to ignore.

The scarce amount of sunlight that managed to reach her gave a pale golden glow to her gaseous physique, her rings a sombre tone and her realm an aura of serenity.

Far away from the violence and fury of the sun, she lived in quiet harmony with her peers in the solar system of which she was a planet. Over the years since her birth, she had acquired her own mini empire. Billions of ice particles, rocks and dust revolved around her and one could intermittently see a planet hidden amongst the rings. Most gas giants would haughtily attract the visiting rocks towards themselves to grow more powerful and massive. But then, she was not like most planets. She respected the ice and the dust that entered her reign. She granted them the freedom of choosing their own pace, size and location in her territory. They encircled her, each spinning about its own orbit but all of them circling her in unison. Such was her magic. She didn’t have to trap them to stay with her. They were awed by her grace, captivated by her beauty. Those who wished to join were welcomed by her gravity. She nurtured them with her tidal force, protected them with her size and gave them a home in her kingdom. Those who wished to leave were let go without fuss. She did not own anyone, nor was she owned by one.

NASA,JPL,ESA. Tethys, Rings and Shadows. 2005. nasa.gov. Web. 15 Dec. 2017.

Several layers of her atmosphere made up for the solid ground she could not acquire during her birth. She guarded these layers diligently. Her highest layer of atmosphere, thick and impenetrable, protected the lower, more volatile layers, also helping her hide her activities from curious onlookers. No one, absolutely no one was allowed to peep through her thick haze of ammonia. From the outside she boasted uniformity, but beneath her protected layers she suffered the worst of squalls.

Storms raged, lightnings struck, thunders rolled. She tucked them all away neatly, never once allowing them to leak through her atmosphere. Her clouds covered, engulfed and destroyed them before they could mar her surface. She gave absolutely no clue of the chaos within her. Outsiders only saw what she showed them: yet another day in the Saturnian world.

On one such day, in her well-meant attempt to hold everything in place, she pressed a little too hard. The dense water molecules in the lower layers emptied themselves, cooling the upper atmosphere. This in turn suppressed the convection that was critical to her balance.

A tiny yet intense storm began brewing somewhere in her northern hemisphere. Since she didn’t realise her own ring system was her weakness, the storm was determined to use it to exploit her. It churned cautiously, biding its time. All it had to do was wait for the equinox. Its wish came true a few days later when the sun’s rays hit the rings edge on and Saturn’s equator was quickly engulfed in shadows. Temperature across her equatorial belt quickly diminished, causing a global instability all through her seemingly uniform profile. Deeming the situation as perfect, the whirlwind soared.

It scraped through the atmosphere, coalescing one layer after the other into an incomprehensible mix. Once on the surface, it might have easily been mistaken for harmless clouds had it not been for its fervent centre. The storm did not need well defined boundaries to tell the world it was widening. The blurred edges were proof enough of its speed, tenacity and goal. It streaked westwards, leaving behind tiny blotches of clouds, each inhabiting tiny tempest of their own. While they were quickly covered by higher altitude clouds, the centre raged on and on, leaving intense plumes in its wake. The storm eventually encircled the entire planet and the turbulence could be seen from far and wide, exposing the very depths of Saturn she had refused to reveal.

Yet, despite the upheaval of her layers, the band of chaos was much too beautiful to be tagged as a scar. The storm spoke of her struggle for truce with herself, a cruel reminder of the responsibility bestowed upon her. No, it was much more than a simple turbulence. It was Saturn in all her glory. Even though the storm was nothing but havoc to her neatly organized lifestyle, she wore it like a crown.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute. 2011. nasa.gov. Web. 15 Dec. 2017.

 

 

 

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