It was an alien storm to dim memories of all others, wrapping all the way around a vast northern portion of Saturn, a planet that could hold about 750 Earths. And it brought with it a spike in temperature never observed before anywhere in the solar system.
Think of a violent storm, NASA said, that covers all of North America and continues on around the planet -- a storm from which you could not escape for nine months.
Brigette Hesman, who tracks storms on Saturn, spoke with the Los Angeles Times on Thursday morning about the super storm and its aftermath, which have marked a peak in her scientific career.
"It's a very exciting thing ... a once-in-a-lifetime thing," said Hesman, a scientist at University of Maryland and the Goddard Spaceflight Center.
The storm erupted in December 2010 with a burp, Hesman said. The Cassini spacecraft, orbiting Saturn, picked up the information and sent it back to Earth.
"The reason we call it the burp is, essentially, the storm erupted from below and all this energy moved into the stratosphere," she said.
Scott Edgington is deputy project scientist with the Cassini spacecraft. In an interview Thursday with The Times he described the storm and the instrument that recorded it for history.
The storm grew over the course of about nine months, he said, likening it to "a boiling pot of water"; material bubbled up into Saturn's stratosphere over the course of time.
Cassini analyzed the storm using its Composite Infrared Spectometer (CIRS). Edgington said CIRS measures temperature and the abundance of different kinds molecules.
"That instrument saw a drastic rise in temperature, about 80 degrees Kelvin," or 150 degrees Fahrenheit, above normal, he said, "which is unprecedented for anything we've ever seen in the solar system."