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Cloudy with a chance of ACID RAIN: Extraterrestrial weather forecasts reveal why we shouldn't complain about showers on Earth

  • The weather on other planets puts ours to shame
  • On Mars, US rovers have to content with dust storms and radiation
  • Elsewhere, on Uranus it is thought to rain diamonds on the ground
  • Jupiter's Great Red Spot storm has raged for more than 350 years
  • And outside the solar system, amazing worlds have been found with weather foreceasted to be unlike anything seen before
As we fight daily against sub-zero temperatures, high winds and lashing snow and rain, it's easy to think that the weather can't much worse at the moment.
That is, until you leave the envelope of our atmosphere that serves as a gateway to space.
Here, even a windproof umbrella and a faithful waterproof windcheater jacket won’t save you.
On Mars, spacecraft have to content with intense conditions such as dust storms and radiation. Illustrated is one of Nasa's Viking landers, which touched down in 1976
On Mars, spacecraft have to content with intense conditions such as dust storms and radiation. Illustrated is one of Nasa's Viking landers, which touched down in 1976

That’s because the weather that can be found in space is monstrous, making our planet’s occasional crashes of thunder sound like low grumbles and the great lashes of rain, capable of flooding the lowlands, appear as nothing more than puddles made by light drizzle.
No more than an astronomical stone’s throw away - at an average distance of 67 million miles (108 million km) away - from our planet, things turn quite nasty on planet Venus.

Nicknamed ‘Earth’s evil twin’ with good reason, the second world from the sun is a toxic and barren wasteland.
Thick, heavy clouds laden with sulphuric acid hang in the hot, pressurised Venusian sky, topping the odd active volcano, which burp additional heat and toxicity.
The scene is one of high pressures and poisonous, choking fumes, making us somewhat grateful for Earth’s much more forgiving weather fronts.
Other planets in the solar system, and the environment in the sun, reveal why Earth is the only habitable planet that we know of to date. On Venus it lashes down acid rain, while Jupiter has dramatic winds
Other planets in the solar system, and the environment in the sun, reveal why Earth is the only habitable planet that we know of to date. On Venus it lashes down acid rain, while Jupiter has dramatic winds
Nicknamed ‘Earth’s evil twin’ with good reason, the second world from the sun - Venus - is a toxic and barren wasteland. Thick, heavy clouds laden with sulphuric acid hang in the hot, pressurised Venusian sky, topping the odd active volcano, which burp additional heat and toxicity (artist's illustration shown)
Nicknamed ‘Earth’s evil twin’ with good reason, the second world from the sun - Venus - is a toxic and barren wasteland. Thick, heavy clouds laden with sulphuric acid hang in the hot, pressurised Venusian sky, topping the odd active volcano, which burp additional heat and toxicity (artist's illustration shown)
In the opposite direction to Venus, things aren’t much better on Mars.
It’s quite easy to think that nothing much happens on the red planet, as its robotic inhabitants - including Nasa’s Curiosity rover - ping back images showing stretches of barren landscape beneath a somewhat dull pink sky.
This article appeared in the latest issue of All About Space magazine, issue 35, which is on sale nowThe truth is, if you thought that we struggled to make an accurate prediction of the weather here on Earth, then we would be even more at a loss with the Martian weather system, leaving many weather forecasters tearing their hair out.
That’s because Mars’ weather is as unpredictable as it gets - and that’s quite surprising for a planet with an atmosphere that’s only about one per cent as dense as Earth’s.
Being so thin ensures that whoever dares to walk its dusty surface is sure to receive fatal doses of space radiation, whether its origin is the deeper recesses of our galaxy or the sun. 
There is good news, though: it never rains on the red planet, even though clouds do form and snow does fall, but that evaporates before it has a chance to reach the ground.
In general, Mars is pretty cold with temperatures not getting much higher than 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit), even during the summer.
Day to day, or even as quickly as hour to hour, an otherwise calm day can turn into one that’s rife with dust devils and great haboobs capable of engulfing the entire globe in a red haze for weeks.
Kicking up such great amounts of dust is all thanks to a drop in temperature, as Martian sunsets give way to Martian nights, sending the lukewarm world’s summer plummeting into a harsh -140 degrees Celsius (-220 degrees Fahrenheit).
Such a change in temperature drives hard and fast winds, which blow red dust up to speeds of over 100 miles (160km) per hour.
The same thing happens on Earth, with moisture arming these swirling storms. 
The outer gas giants - Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - also have amazing weather systems, including gales much stronger than anything on Earth and the possibility of raining diamonds from the sky
The outer gas giants - Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - also have amazing weather systems, including gales much stronger than anything on Earth and the possibility of raining diamonds from the sky
Day to day on Mars, or even as quickly as hour to hour, an otherwise calm day can turn into one that’s rife with dust devils (one shown on the surface in this image) and great haboobs capable of engulfing the entire globe in a red haze for weeks
Day to day on Mars, or even as quickly as hour to hour, an otherwise calm day can turn into one that’s rife with dust devils (one shown on the surface in this image) and great haboobs capable of engulfing the entire globe in a red haze for weeks

IS THE GREAT RED SPOT BECOMING NOT SO GREAT?

Scientists have noticed that Jupiter’s trademark feature is not as great as it once was: the Great Red Spot is shrinking. In the 1800s astronomers measured the Great Red Spot to be 25,500 miles (41,000 km) across.
By 1979 when the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft reached the gas giant, the massive storm had been whittled down to around 14,500 miles (23,300km) across.
Much more recently, Nasa's Hubble Space Telescope has measured the Great Red Spot to be 10,250 miles (16,500km) wide.
What’s more, the storm seems to be taking on a more circular appearance these days. Just what will happen to the storm next is anyone’s guess, with astronomers wondering if it will vanish completely.
On the gas giants, just a small percentage of the wind power is capable of more than blowing your umbrella inside out - it can pick up houses and throw them like dice. 
And Jupiter proudly reveals swirls and bands that depict its chaotic nature.
The most famous of these is the Great Red Spot, an anticyclone that’s so large that three Earths are able to fit inside it.
We’re able to see this great storm system using Earth-based telescopes, and we’ve been watching in awe as the winds have raced at over 250 miles (400km) per hour for the past 350 years, rotating in an anticlockwise direction due to the crushing high pressure on the gas giant.
But inside this behemoth of a storm, things are quite a bit different. At its heart, gone are the gale force winds, giving way to a more gentle breeze, but where temperatures are also a chilly -160 degrees Celsius (-256 degrees Fahrenheit).
To last for as long as it has, this extreme hurricane is held together by jet streams, retaining its structure to travel multiple times around the stormy planet. 
The most famous of Jupiter's storms is the Great Red Spot, seen here in the Southern Hemisphere of the planet. However, over the last two decades, it seems the storm is beginning to wane
The most famous of Jupiter's storms is the Great Red Spot, seen here in the Southern Hemisphere of the planet. However, over the last two decades, it seems the storm is beginning to wane
The centre of the Gread Red Spot storm is fairly calm, but around the centre winds race at over 250 miles (400km) per hour, and have done for the past 350 years, rotating in an anticlockwise direction due to the crushing high pressure on the gas giant planet
The centre of the Gread Red Spot storm is fairly calm, but around the centre winds race at over 250 miles (400km) per hour, and have done for the past 350 years, rotating in an anticlockwise direction due to the crushing high pressure on the gas giant planet
Jupiter’s not the only planet in the vicinity to have a rampant weather system. Its neighbour, ringed Saturn, also has a huge weather system, although you’d be hard-pressed to see it from Earth.
On the whole, its gaseous surface looks pretty bland, almost as if the winds and great powerful lightning bolts thrown from its cloud decks are non-existent. But underneath that creamy and misleading atmosphere, Saturn is fairly wild.
Gusts topping 1,120 miles (1,800 km) per hour race and force this world’s collection of gases and ices around it at break-neck speed, making Jupiter’s Great Red Spot seem like a light gust of wind.
Up close and personal though - and with the helping hand of a fleet of space telescopes - we can get a good look at what makes Saturn’s storms so mega.
At the planet’s north pole circulates a hexagonal storm with its six sides each measuring a whopping 8,600 miles (13,800km) long and making our planet look fairly small.
To look at, this unusual anticyclonic disturbance seems unreal but it’s undeniably present, with proof from the likes of Nasa's Voyager and Cassini spacecrafts thrusting photographic evidence into the hands of astounded scientists.
The hexagon has bemused planetary scientists, but it seems to be some form of jet stream created by an area of turbulent atmosphere.

Inside the hexagon is a whirlpool of air, which is matched at the south pole too and also on Saturn’s hazy moon Titan - the only moon in the solar system with a substantial atmosphere.
Shown is the trail of a great northern storm of thunderand lightning on Saturn in 2011, which was estimated to be able to suck out the entire volume of our planet's atmosphere in just 150 days with its updraft alone
Shown is the trail of a great northern storm of thunderand lightning on Saturn in 2011, which was estimated to be able to suck out the entire volume of our planet's atmosphere in just 150 days with its updraft alone
This persistent hexagonal weather pattern that is Saturn’s northpolar vortex has six sides, each measuring around 8,600 miles (13,800km) long
This persistent hexagonal weather pattern that is Saturn’s northpolar vortex has six sides, each measuring around 8,600 miles (13,800km) long
On Titan, winds struggle to reach much of a pace blowing at just a few kilometres per hour as they battle through the dense nitrogen atmosphere, while it rains droplets of black methane that settles into rivers and lakes.
If you were to take a tour of this moon, you would definitely need your umbrella and your thermals: it’s bone-chillingly cold at -180 degrees Celsius (-292 degrees Fahrenheit).
Heading out of the solar system at around 1.8 billion miles (2.9 billion kilometres) away, we hit the featureless face of the seventh planet from the sun, Uranus.
This collection of gas and ice might look like a boring world but underneath that placid turquoise cloud layer, a whole different story unfolds, even if it’s not as enraged as the other planets we’ve met so far.
Beneath its clouds, scientists think that it might actually rain on Uranus but we’re not talking water like Earth or liquid organics like Titan - experts are hinting at diamonds. It’s a jeweller’s paradise, but perhaps not a rainstorm that you’d want to get caught in when it’s in full force.
An umbrella won’t help you here either, you would need a shield, as priceless chunks rain from the heavens, making any painful hailstorm that you’ve been caught up in seriously pale in comparison.
This torrent of diamonds - or crystallised carbon - is made by methane, being squashed under enormous pressures, hundreds of thousands of times greater than those on Earth.
On Titan (artist's illustration shown), winds struggle to reach much of a pace blowing at just a few kilometres per hour as they battle through the dense nitrogen atmosphere, while it rains droplets of black methane that settles into rivers and lakes. There may also be lightning on the surface, from the dense atmosphere
On Titan (artist's illustration shown), winds struggle to reach much of a pace blowing at just a few kilometres per hour as they battle through the dense nitrogen atmosphere, while it rains droplets of black methane that settles into rivers and lakes. There may also be lightning on the surface, from the dense atmosphere
Fellow ice giant Neptune is outwardly much more interesting than Uranus. It too has diamond rain deep inside, but the smallest of the outer planets also tries to emulate its bigger brother with its own great spot.
Here, instead of Jupiter’s embarrassed red hue, Neptune’s is cool and dark.
It was discovered in Neptune’s southern hemisphere when Voyager 2 flew past the last planet from the sun in 1989 and is an anticyclonic storm like Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, and about the same size as Earth at 8,100 miles (13,000km) across.
White cirrus clouds form around its fringes, made from crystals of frozen methane.
Yet while Jupiter’s eye is shrinking, Neptune’s spot did its own vanishing act in 1994, disappearing completely when the Hubble Space Telescope looked for it.
However, this magic act was not permanent, as a new dark spot sprang to life in Neptune’s northern hemisphere and is still blowing today at 1,500 miles (2,400km) per hour.
Even faster clouds have been seen on Neptune, called scooters because they scoot around Neptune far faster than the lumbering dark spot.
Neptune (shown) has giant storms of its own, sometimes known as the Great Dark Spot (shown in the centre). It was discovered in Neptune’s southern hemisphere when Voyager 2 flew past the last planet from the sun in 1989 and is an anticyclonic storm like Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, and about the same size as Earth
Neptune (shown) has giant storms of its own, sometimes known as the Great Dark Spot (shown in the centre). It was discovered in Neptune’s southern hemisphere when Voyager 2 flew past the last planet from the sun in 1989 and is an anticyclonic storm like Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, and about the same size as Earth
But there is more weather in our own galaxy besides the weather on the planets of our solar system.
The stars in our galaxy have their own planets, including a particular breed that like it especially hot.
Take Jupiter with its Giant Red Spot, move it 480 million miles (770 million km) closer to the sun and you get a ‘hot Jupiter’.
Astronomers have found hundreds of these hot Jupiters around other stars - and they are scorching, with temperatures as great as 3,200 degrees Celsius (5,800 degrees Fahrenheit) in the case of the exoplanet WASP-33b, which is so close to its star that its year lasts just 29 hours.
The close proximity to their parent star means that they’re ‘tidally locked’ by gravity, so that they rotate at the same speed that they take to orbit their star.
This means they always show the same face to their stars, the same way the moon’s face is always the same as seen from Earth.
Because of this, the dayside of worlds like WASP-33b are always in their star’s light, causing huge storms to arise, bigger than anything in our solar system.
The stars in our galaxy have their own planets, including a particular breed that like it especially hot. Take Jupiter with its Giant Red Spot, move it 480 million miles (770 million km) closer to the sun and you get a ‘hot Jupiter’ (artist's illustration shown)
The stars in our galaxy have their own planets, including a particular breed that like it especially hot. Take Jupiter with its Giant Red Spot, move it 480 million miles (770 million km) closer to the sun and you get a ‘hot Jupiter’ (artist's illustration shown)
The hot Jupiter exoplanet HD 189733b has a huge storm on its dayside, practically the size of its sun-facing hemisphere, where temperatures directly underneath the sun reach as much as 1,500 degrees Celsius (2,730 degrees Fahrenheit).
This creates winds that outpace anything in our Solar System at 6,000 miles (9,700 km) per hour, whipping around the dark side of the planet, which always faces away into space and never sees the light of its star - a dark and windy place, but never cold.
We often view the weather as an inconvenience, soaking us with rain, blowing our hair around with wind, frying us in hot and sunny climes and freezing us when snowflakes drift downwards.
But when we are complaining about what the weather is doing here, spare a thought for the places experiencing far worse, not just within the confines of our solar system but beyond it too.

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