Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2011 August 27

Hurricane Irene Forms
Image Credit: GOES 13 satellite, NASA, NOAA

Explanation: How does a hurricane form? Although a complete picture is still being researched, insight into this process might be gleaned by watching the above time lapse movie of the formation of Hurricane Irene, a large storm system currently threatening the eastern seaboard of the USA. Starting as a slight pressure difference visible as nondescript clouds on the lower right, Hurricane Irene is shown growing into large spiraling storm system of low pressure off the coast of South Carolina. A hurricane is powered by evaporating ocean water, and so typically gains strength over warm water and loses strength over land. Besides Earth, other planets that have hurricane-like storm systems include Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune. Much remains unknown about hurricanes and cyclones, including the exact path they will take.

Tomorrow's picture: big blowtorch

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