[SFX: thunder, heavy rain, wet wind]
We're heading into the heart of the Atlantic hurricane season -- the time when we typically see not only more storms, but more powerful ones. From the time they're born over warm, open waters until they die over land, these killer storms can churn for days or even weeks.
But this year, scientists have been keeping their eyes on a storm that's lasted for months -- not in the Atlantic, but on the planet Saturn. It first appeared around last Thanksgiving, and was still going by early summer. It grew almost as big as Earth.
[SFX: Saturn lightning] Scientists actually "heard" the storm before they saw it. From orbit around Saturn, an instrument aboard the Cassini spacecraft recorded bursts of radio static produced by lightning, similar to these recorded in an earlier storm. [SFX: bring up lightning audio] The lightning blasts are up to 10,000 times stronger than those on Earth.
While storms on Earth are driven by the Sun, those in Saturn get most of their energy from inside the planet itself. The heat radiates from the dense core outward through the surrounding layers of gas, eventually bubbling to the top of Saturn's atmosphere -- where it can power giant storms.
Look for Saturn to the right of the crescent Moon as the sky begins to darken this evening. Mars stands just above the Moon. All three drop from sight not long after that, so you need to look quickly to find them. More about Mars tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2008
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.