NASA Observes Record-Setting Gas Storm on Saturn

Temperatures jumped more than 150 degrees during the 2010 storm.

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It's not just humans who get gassy. A NASA satellite captured a rare, record-setting "burp" on the surface of Saturn, the agency announced Thursday.

Temperatures in Saturn's stratosphere soared more than 150 degrees above normal in the aftermath of a storm, according to data captured by NASA's Cassini satellite, which orbits the ringed planet. According to NASA, the ethylene gas—which NASA is calling a "burp"—that was generated by the storm was 100 times more than scientists thought the planet was capable of making.

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"The temperature spike is so extreme it's almost unbelievable, especially in this part of Saturn's atmosphere, which is typically very stable," Brigette Hesman, a University of Maryland scientist who works at NASA, said in a statement. "To get a temperature change of the same scale on Earth, you'd be going from the depths of winter in Fairbanks, Alaska, to the height of summer in the Mojave Desert."

NASA detected the storm in December 2010. It was the first time a storm of this magnitude was able to be measured by an orbiting satellite.

The agency estimates that a storm of this magnitude happens about once every 30 years. "It was a complete surprise," said Michael Flasar, who runs Cassini's spectrometer, which detected the gas. "We've never been able to see ethylene on Saturn before."

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Jason Koebler is a science and technology reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at jkoebler@usnews.com.