Scientists have concluded today that Saturn’s jet streams are driven by internal heat and not energy from the Sun, after studying data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

The study has shown that the condensation of water from the internal heat of Saturn leads to the differences of temperature in the atmosphere. The differences create commotion called “eddies” which move the air back and forth at the same latitude and accelerate the jet streams.

The study was based on years worth of data collected by Cassini and the research was published in the ‘Icarus’ June issue. The lead author was Tony Del Genio of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and also a member of the imaging team at Cassini.

A study before this had assumed that the cause of the temperature differences in the atmosphere was the source of energy produced by the Sun. This is where storms are created by the heating from the Sun rather than the condensation.

“We know the atmospheres of planets such as Saturn and Jupiter can get their energy from only two places: the sun or the internal heating. The challenge has been coming up with ways to use the data so that we can tell the difference.”

Being in orbit around Saturn since 2004, Cassini was able to make a vast number of observations which made this study possible.

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