Methane Skies

Saturn as seen through a methane filter
Saturn as seen through a methane filter

In this raw image from Cassini, giant scallop-edged cloud patterns become visible in Saturn’s atmosphere with camera filters specially designed to detect methane. Light and dark banding of the clouds at various latitudes are also extremely distinctive through this filter.

Although mostly hydrogen and helium, Saturn’s atmosphere does contain elements like methane and ammonia.

Saturn’s atmosphere constantly churns with huge eddying storms and powerful jet streams, moving with winds traveling hundreds of miles per hour. While once it was believed the jet streams powered the eddies, it’s now believed the case is just the opposite…the storms are contributing power into the jet streams, which then help spawn new storms.

Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute