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Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Staring into Saturn's baleful eye

Posted By Emily Lakdawalla

27-11-2012 23:12 CST

Topics: Cassini, pretty pictures, atmospheres, Saturn

EDIT: There is now an amazing animated version of this image sequence.

This is just wow. It's part of a long sequence Cassini took, staring at Saturn's north pole. When? Today.

Raw image of Saturn's north polar vortex

NASA / JPL / SSI / Emily Lakdawalla

Raw image of Saturn's north polar vortex
This photo looking down onto Saturn's summer north pole was taken on November 27, 2012 from a distance of 361,000 kilometers through an infrared (CB2) filter. It has been filtered to reduce noise from cosmic ray hits and JPEG compression.

Go check out the rest of the sequence for yourself at the raw images website. Bill Dunford made an animation of some of them.

Zoom out, and you realize you're looking at just a tiny center of Saturn's famous north polar hexagon.

Saturn's north polar hexagon and rings (raw image)

Saturn's north polar hexagon and rings (raw image)
This view, looking down on Saturn's north pole, was taken on November 27, 2012. You can see the hexagon surrounding Saturn's north pole, as well as some of Saturn's rings beyond the limb.

Space exploration is awesome.


More Cassini Mission Coverage

Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Coverage

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See other posts from November 2012


Read more blog entries about: Cassini, pretty pictures, atmospheres, Saturn


Anonymous: 11/28/2012 03:10 CST

Beautiful. I'm confused though, the article says it's the North pole, but the URL says it's the South pole. What is it?

Joseph Moran: 11/28/2012 10:32 CST

This is what I always wanted to see, cloud relief on a scale small enough they start to be recognizable as actual clouds. Emily, think you could provide a scale bar?

Emily Lakdawalla: 11/28/2012 10:44 CST

@Anonymous: sorry about that. I had mistakenly written "south" at first, and could change it in the text, but couldn't change the URL without breaking all the inbound links already made, so I had to leave it, unfortunately. @Joseph: The scale of the top image is something like 3 kilometers per pixel (so the image is something like 3000 kilometers across, or comparable to the width of our Moon) but because it's oblique the scale is different horizontally and vertically, and I don't know the scale precisely enough to draw a scale bar on it. In any case, these are large clouds, each "cloud" really a storm system.

James Webster: 11/28/2012 10:58 CST

Is there any more data about this?

Joseph Kane: 11/28/2012 11:18 CST

What are the wind speed estimates?

Anonymous: 11/28/2012 01:19 CST

Do you know why does it have an hexagonal shape?

Joseph Moran: 11/28/2012 03:44 CST

Thanks Emily. I did a quick mashup of the pole with Hurricane Isabel (2003), where Isabel's eye was ~60 km across: For more info on the hexagon:

Hugo Pipping: 11/28/2012 05:38 CST

I just had to make a quick timelapse of some of the raw images:

Bob Ware: 11/28/2012 05:39 CST

Anonymous -- I believe Emily did a very nice blog with video/computer graphic of the hex explanation. I don't know if it is still available or not. If not maybe someone could find it and repost it. This is a great question and now would be the time to bring that graphic back. The hex structure is intriguing! Thanks Emily for the stunning images!

Bill Campbell: 11/28/2012 08:16 CST

Emily Great shot. These kinds of images are timeless. Curious, how big is the vortex? Or even, how many Earths would fit in it? Just for scale. Thanks

Bill Campbell: 11/28/2012 08:17 CST

ok sorry, saw the info above to @Joseph. question already answered.

Emily Lakdawalla: 11/29/2012 12:20 CST

Here's an explanation of the hexagon:

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