Join Donate

Emily LakdawallaNovember 28, 2012

That amazing image of Saturn's north pole just got better: now, it moves!

Remember the amazing photo of Saturn's north pole that I posted yesterday? Now, thanks to an amateur image processor, it moves, and the motions of the individual clouds within the belts are mesmerizing. Check it out. You may need to wait a bit for all 14 frames to load, but once they do, you'll see a smooth animation. Watch those storms shear and whirl. Some of the apparent cloud motion is not real -- it's due to Cassini's changing perspective -- but most of it is real effects of the differential motions of currents and clouds in Saturn's dynamic atmosphere.

Saturn's north polar vortex (an animation)

NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI / Kevin McAbee

Saturn's north polar vortex (an animation)
Cassini took 14 images of Saturn's north polar vortex on 27 November 2012 over a period of many hours as the planet rotated beneath it. The 14 images have been processed to remove the geometric effects of Cassini's oblique viewpoint and of Saturn's rotation, holding the outer bright ring of white clouds fixed. With these motions removed, you can see individual vortices rotating and shearing, and the central clouds rotating faster than the outer ones.

This is something I attempted to produce myself last night, but I could not make it work. I said as much on and a newbie there, Kevin McAbee, came to my rescue with this amazing animation. (Clearly he's not a newbie to image processing.) He even shared a couple of intermediate stages so that you can see what he started with. Spectacular work!

Saturn's north polar vortex (animation) - original frames

NASA / JPL / SSI / Kevin McAbee

Saturn's north polar vortex (animation) - original frames
Saturn's north polar vortex (animation) - aligned

NASA / JPL / SSI / Kevin McAbee

Saturn's north polar vortex (animation) - aligned

Read more: pretty pictures, Cassini, atmospheres, data art (was amateur image processing), Saturn, animation

You are here:
Emily Lakdawalla 2017 headshot square serene
Emily Lakdawalla

Solar System Specialist for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Emily Lakdawalla

Comments & Sharing
Bill Nye and people
Let's Change the World

Become a member of The Planetary Society and together we will create the future of space exploration.

Join Today

The Planetary Fund

Help advance robotic and human space exploration, defend our planet, and search for life.


"We're changing the world. Are you in?"
- CEO Bill Nye

Sign Up for Email Updates