Categories: CassiniSaturn

A New Look at Saturn’s Northern Hexagon

Freshly delivered from Cassini’s wide-angle camera, this raw image gives us another look at Saturn’s north pole and the curious hexagon-shaped jet stream that encircles it, as well as the spiraling vortex of clouds at its center.

Back in November we got our first good look at Saturn’s north pole in years, now that Cassini’s orbit is once again taking it high over the ringplane. With spring progressing on Saturn’s northern hemisphere the upper latitudes are getting more and more sunlight — which stirs up storm activity in its atmosphere.

The bright tops of upper-level storm clouds speckle Saturn’s skies, and a large circular cyclone can be seen near the north pole, within the darker region contained by the hexagonal jet stream. This could be a long-lived storm, as it also seems to be in the images captured on November 27.

About 25,000 km (15,500 miles) across, Saturn’s hexagon is wide enough to fit nearly four Earths inside!

The Saturn hexagon as seen by Voyager 1 in 1980 (NASA)

The hexagon was originally discovered in images taken by the Voyager spacecraft in the early 1980s. It encircles Saturn at about 77 degrees north latitude and is estimated to whip around the planet at speeds of 354 km/h (220 mph.)

Watch a video of the hexagon in motion here.

The rings can be seen in the background fading into the shadow cast by the planet itself. A slight bit of ringshine brightens Saturn’s nighttime limb.

Cassini was approximately 579,653 kilometers (360,180 miles) from Saturn when the raw image above (W00079643) was taken.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

 

Jason Major

A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

Recent Posts

Alan Shepard’s Daughter Will be Flying on the Next New Shepard Flight

For the 19th mission of the New Shepard rocket, Blue Origin has offered a seat…

3 days ago

NASA Plans to Retire the Space Station in 2030 and Replace it with Commercially Owned “Destinations” in Low Earth Orbit

While it may seem like the International Space Station is just now fully hitting its…

3 days ago

An Upcoming Asteroid Mission Will be Able to Peer 100 Meters Under the Surface

Engineers only get one shot at making a spacecraft work as intended.  Or at least…

3 days ago

Our Guide to the Only Total Solar Eclipse of 2021

This weekend, the shadow of the Moon graces the Earth one last time for the…

3 days ago

NASA is Building a Nuclear Reactor to Power Lunar and Martian Exploration!

NASA and the U.S. Dept. of Energy have come together to solicit design proposals for…

4 days ago

InSight Peers Deep Below the Surface on Mars

The InSight lander has been on Mars, gathering data for a thousand days now, working…

5 days ago