Cassini Peeks at Titan’s Southern Vortex
A color-composite image of Titan shows Saturn’s largest moon in true color, including its recently-discovered southern vortex forming above its south pole.
The image was assembled from three raw images acquired on August 28 by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in red, green and blue visible light color channels. The background was extended in size to better frame the moon.
The polar vortex, seen above as a slightly brighter oval patch just inside Titan’s terminator near the bottom, is an area of rising gas and swirling convective cells thought to be the result of winter’s approach in Titan’s southern hemisphere.
According to the CICLOPS Cassini imaging lab site:
The seasons have been changing since Saturn’s August 2009 equinox signaled the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere and fall in the southern hemisphere for the planet and its many moons. Now the high southern latitudes are moving into darkness. The formation of the vortex at Titan’s south pole may be related to the coming southern winter and the start of what will be a south polar hood.
See a closer image of the vortex here.
Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute. Composite by Jason Major.)