There’s a Cerulean Storm Swirling on Saturn’s North Pole

RGB color-composite of Saturn from raw images acquired on Feb. 13, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Jason Major)

RGB color-composite of Saturn from raw images acquired on Feb. 13, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Jason Major)

Like some giant beast’s great blue eye Saturn’s north polar vortex appears to glare up at Cassini’s wide-angle camera in this image, a color-composite made from raw images acquired in red, green, and blue visible light wavelengths on February 13, 2017.

The vortex, an 1,800-mile-wide circular storm spinning around Saturn’s pole, lies at the center of an even larger structure: Saturn’s hexagon, a curiously geometric jet stream surrounding its north pole. Three sides of the hexagon can be seen above.

This isn’t the best view of Saturn’s vortex that Cassini has captured (that would be this) but it certainly highlights the striking color variations of the feature, which give us a look deep into Saturn’s violent atmosphere.

Here’s another look at the same structure from a slightly different angle, also on Feb. 13, 2017:



RGB color-composite of Saturn’s polar vortex and hexagon from raw images acquired on Feb. 13, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Jason Major)

Saturn’s hexagon is a particular favorite of mine, as it was featured in my very first blog post here on Lights in the Dark waaaaaay back on Feb. 12, 2009—just four days over eight years ago! Since that time more and more of Saturn’s pole has been illuminated as northern midsummer approaches during its nearly 30-year-long orbit.


Image of Saturn taken during its spring equinox on Aug. 11, 2009. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004 during its northern winter and has observed seasonal changes through spring equinox and into summer; solstice at Saturn is on May 24, 2017. Sadly, Cassini won’t quite make it to four months past solstice—its grand finale dive into Saturn is scheduled for Sept. 15, 2017.

See the latest raw images as they arrive from Cassini here.


About Jason Major

Jason is a Rhode Island-based graphic designer, photographer, nature lover, space exploration fanatic, and coffee addict. In no particular order.

Posted on February 16, 2017, in Saturn and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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