Skip to comments.NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Obtains Best Views of Saturn Hexagon (Videos)(Awesome Is Inadequate)
Posted on 02/06/2014 3:56:45 PM PST by lbryce
This colorful view from NASA's Cassini mission is the highest-resolution view of the unique six-sided jet stream at Saturn's north pole known as "the hexagon." This movie, made from images obtained by Cassini's imaging cameras, is the first to show the hexagon in color filters, and the first movie to show a complete view from the north pole down to about 70 degrees north latitude. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University
This colorful view from NASA's Cassini mission is the highest-resolution view of the unique six-sided jet stream at Saturn's north pole known as "the hexagon." This movie, made from images obtained by Cassini's imaging cameras, is the first to show the hexagon in color filters, and the first movie to show a complete view from the north pole down to about 70 degrees north latitude.
Scientists can see the motion of a wide variety of cloud structures that reside within the hexagon in this movie. There is a massive hurricane tightly centered on the north pole, with an eye about 50 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth. (More information about that Saturn hurricane is at PIA14947.) Numerous small vortices are also present, which appear as reddish ovals. Some of these vortices spin clockwise while the hexagon and hurricane spin counterclockwise. Some of those smaller features are swept along with the jet stream of the hexagon, as if on a racetrack. The biggest of these vortices, seen near the lower right corner of the hexagon and appearing whitish, spans about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers), approximately twice the size of the largest hurricane on Earth.
The differences in this version of the movie, in which different wavelengths of light from ultraviolet to visible to infrared have been assigned colors, show a distinct contrast between the types of atmospheric particles inside and outside the hexagon. Inside the hexagon there are fewer large haze particles and a concentration of small haze particles, while outside the hexagon, the opposite is true. The jet stream that makes up the hexagon seems to act like a barrier, which results in something like the "ozone hole" in the Antarctic.
This movie shows a view from directly over the north pole, keeping up with the rotation of the planet so that all the motion seen on the screen is the motion of the hexagonal jet stream or the storms inside of it, without any added motion from the spinning of the planet itself. The original images were re-projected to show this polar view.
High-resolution views of the hexagon have only recently become possible because of the changing of the seasons at Saturn and changes in the Cassini spacecraft's orbit. The north pole was dark when Cassini first arrived in July 2004. The sun really only began to illuminate the entire interior of the hexagon in August 2009, with the start of northern spring. In late 2012, Cassini began making swings over Saturn's poles, giving it better views of the hexagon.
The eight frames of the movie were captured over 10 hours on Dec.10, 2012. Each of the eight frames consists of 16 map-projected images (four per color filter, and four filters per frame) so the movie combines data from 128 images total.
In this color scheme, scientists assigned red to the 0.750-micron part of the light spectrum (near infrared). This part of the spectrum penetrates the high-altitude haze layer to sense the top of tropospheric cloud deck. They assigned green to the 0.727-micron part of the light spectrum that senses the upper tropospheric haze (a near-infrared wavelength corresponding to a methane absorption band). They assigned blue to the sum of blue and ultraviolet broadband filters -- combined, this blue channel covers between 0.400 and 0.500 microns (covering very near ultraviolet to blue in visible light). This part of the spectrum is sensitive to small aerosols.
To human eyes, the hexagon and north pole would appear in tones of gold and blue. See PIA14945 for a still image of the area in natural color.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://www.nasa.gov/cassini. The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org.
This one’s got your name on it.
I’m wondering if we’ll see something similar on Jupiter when the Juno craft gets there.
I wonder what Richard Hoagland’s screen name is at FR?
Have you seen the new picture of the earth and moon from Mars.
you can just barely make out the moon under the earth.
I had to do a search on “why”. The shape is based on fluid dynamics related to varying densities of the various materials and the speed of the materials. Cool stuff.
Socket to me ...
This is just SO cool!
The Martian Doosh.
Cool, Moon and all!
I always wonder just why god has it that the very small and very large are so much the same. We understand so little about either. Perhaps its a reminder that faith in him plays a part whether we like it or not.
The mind boggles at the very thought of a trillion places throughout the Cosmos every bit as breathtaking never to be pondered, gazed upon by human imagination.
Mind blowing. Just wow. The concept that everyone on this earth resides on that little dot of reflected light is melting my brain.
What is the bright spherical object at 5:30 ?
5:30? That would probably be dinner.
“The biggest of these vortices, seen near the lower right corner of the hexagon and appearing whitish, spans about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers), approximately twice the size of the largest hurricane on Earth.”
I would say the most likeliest is one of its myriad of moons reflected in the clouds.
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