NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has provided scientists the first close-up, visible-light views of a behemoth hurricane swirling around Saturn’s north pole. Scientists say the hurricane’s eye is about 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) wide, 20 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth. Thin, bright clouds at the outer edge of the hurricane are traveling 330 mph (150 meters per second). The hurricane swirls inside a large, mysterious, six-sided weather pattern known as the hexagon. This image is among the first sunlit views of Saturn’s north pole captured by Cassini’s imaging cameras. When the spacecraft arrived in the Saturnian system in 2004, it was northern winter and the north pole was in darkness. Saturn’s north pole was last imaged under sunlight by NASA’s Voyager 2 in 1981; however, the observation geometry did not allow for detailed views of the poles. Consequently, it is not known how long this newly discovered north-polar hurricane has been active. [Source: NASA and Twisted Sifter]
Home / Posts tagged 'Saturn'
On July 5th 2008, wandering planets, bright stars, and a young crescent Moon graced western skies after sunset. Arrayed along the solar system’s ecliptic plane, the three celestial beacons forming this skyscape’s eye-catching line-up with the Moon are Saturn (upper left), then Mars, and finally Regulus, alpha star of the constellation Leo. Of course planet Earth itself lies in the foreground, a scene dominated by the city lights of Santa Barbara, California. The smoky haze hanging over the city is from threatening wild fires still burning along the hill at the right. On Thursday evening, Saturn and Mars can be seen in a much closer pairing or conjunction, separated by only about 3/4 degree on the sky.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has delivered a glorious view of Saturn, taken while the spacecraft was in Saturn’s shadow. The cameras were turned toward Saturn and the sun so that the planet and rings are backlit. (The sun is behind the planet, which is shielding the cameras from direct sunlight.) In addition to the visual splendor, this special, very-high-phase viewing geometry lets scientists study ring and atmosphere phenomena not easily seen at a lower phase.