Incredible Raw Image of Saturn’s Swirling North Pole

Ok, are you ready for this?

I know… WOW.

This swirling maelstrom of clouds is what was seen over Saturn’s north pole earlier today, November 27, by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. This is a raw image, acquired in polarized light, from a distance of 238,045 miles (383,097 kilometers)… all I did was remove some of the hot pixels that are commonly found on Cassini images taken with longer exposures.

Again… WOW.

My attempt at a color composite can be seen below, plus another treat:

It’s rough, and a little muddy because the clouds were moving between image channels (not to mention the blue channel image was rather underexposed) but here’s a color-composite of the same feature, made from images taken from a slightly different perspective:

Color composite of Saturn’s north polar vortex

Pretty darn cool… Cassini does it yet again!

The images above show an approximately 3,000-4,000-km-wide cyclone above Saturn’s north pole. Saturn is also known to have a long-lived hexagonal jet stream feature around its north pole as well, but that is not shown in those images as it runs along a lower latitude. Instead, you can see that HERE:

Saturn’s northern hexagon

Captured with a wider angle, in this image the hexagon structure can be made out as well as the cyclone, which sits at the center just over the pole. Saturn’s hexagon is about 25,000 km (15,500 miles) in diameter… large enough to fit almost four Earths inside. This image was also acquired today.

An RGB composite of this feature is below:

Saturn’s northern hexagon – color composite

It’s been a few years since we’ve gotten such a good look at Saturn’s north pole… thanks to Cassini’s new orbital trajectory, which is taking it high above the ring plane and poles of Saturn, we now have the opportunity to view the gas giant’s dynamic upper latitudes again. I’m sure this is just a taste of what’s to come!

(Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute. Color composites by Jason Major)

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

In 1872, a Solar Storm Hit the Earth Generating Auroras from the Tropics to the Poles

Imagine a solar storm generating auroral displays across the entire sky. No, we haven't quite…

2 hours ago

For its Final Trick, Chandrayaan-3 Brings its Propulsion Module to Earth Orbit

On August 23, ISRO's Vikram lander detached from its propulsion module and made a soft…

5 hours ago

ESA’s Ariel Mission is Approved to Begin Construction

We're about to learn a lot more about exoplanets. The ESA has just approved the…

7 hours ago

Communicating With a Relativistic Spacecraft Gets Pretty Weird

Someday, in the not-too-distant future, humans may send robotic probes to explore nearby star systems.…

10 hours ago

99% of Space Junk is Undetectable. That Could Change Soon

Private and military organizations are tracking some of the 170 million pieces of space junk…

11 hours ago

Astronomers Calculate Which Exoplanets Are Most Likely to Have Water

Astronomers know of about 60 rocky exoplanets orbiting in the habitable zones of their stars.…

11 hours ago