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Cassini captures lightening flashes on Saturn


The flashes of lightening captured by Cassini. A NASA photo

WASHINGTON (BNS): In an interesting catch, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured for the first time lightening flashes on Saturn.

Scientists have in the past captured radio emissions from Saturnian storms. The visible-light cameras on board Cassini have also taken images of bright, convective clouds over giant, powerful thunderstorms, including the famous ‘Dragon Storm’ of 2004.

But they were not able to obtain images of flashes of lightening due to the bright and reflective nature of Saturn, NASA said.

Sunlight reflecting off the rings made the night side of Saturn as bright as a full-moon night on Earth.

It was Equinox, the period around August 2009 when the Sun shone directly over Saturn's equator and lit the rings edge-on only, that resulted in the necessary darkness, thereby aiding the spacecraft to capture the flashes.

The storm that helped Cassini capture the flashes lasted from January to October, 2009, making it the longest lasting lightening storm known in the Solar System, NASA said.

Cassini’s narrow-angle camera then took the images and the view was acquired at a distance of approximately 2.1 million kilometers from Saturn.

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