Saturn storm
Saturn storm

A spectacular storm raging on the surface of the planet Saturn has been captured in never-before-seen detail.

The enormous hurricane measures around 1,250 miles across, and the fact it exists at all is a bit of a marvel.

Saturn has no solid surface for the hurricane to touch down on, and there is also a serious lack of water on the planet to fuel the spinning vortex.

It is not known how long the storm, which is surging at around 140 metres per second, has been active.

Space boffins at the European Space Agency dubbed the hurricane 'The Rose' because it resembles the romantic flower. The red portion indicates low-hanging clouds while the turquoise portions are higher up in the atmosphere.

Saturn's own red storm echoes the Great Red Spot on planet Jupiter - which is also a gigantic storm, and much greater in size than its newly-captured counterpart.

Unlike hurricanes on Earth which are mobile, the one on Saturn appears locked in place by the planet's north pole.

The Cassini space probe took the amazing images near the pole, the latest in a series of snaps taken since the roving vehicle entered the planet's orbit in 2004.

Colour-coded image of Saturn storm under the camera
Colour-coded image of Saturn storm under the camera

It is the first time the North Pole has been snapped under sunlight since 1981, by Voyager 2.

Getting the shots was a long process, requiring monastic patience from the scientists. They had to wait until 2009 for summer to arrive on Saturn to illuminate the northern hemisphere. Then the camera angles needed to be changed by revising the trajectory of the planet's orbit.

The space probe sending home these latest pictures is now 890 million miles from Earth.

Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said: "We did a double take when we saw this vortex because it looks so much like a hurricane on Earth.

"But there it is at Saturn, on a much larger scale, and it is somehow getting by on the small amounts of water vapour in Saturn's hydrogen atmosphere."

Scientists hope they will learn more about how hurricanes on Earth are sustained from the images of Saturn - which seems a long way to go for such information.

North Pole hurricane on Saturn
North Pole hurricane on Saturn