image 19-February-2019 11:58:32

Saturn's northern polar hexagon in motion

Date: 04 September 2018
Satellite: Cassini
Depicts: Saturn
Copyright: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University

This mesmerising view shows the famous hexagon, located in the clouds surrounding Saturn's northern pole. Comprising data gathered by the international Cassini mission, this animated visual, published in 2012, offered the first ever colour view of Saturn's hexagon, and was the first animated view to cover such a large section of this part of the planet (from the north pole down to a latitude of roughly 70 degrees north).

The hexagon itself is an intriguing, swirling system of air currents and turbulent weather. Unlike Earth's hurricanes, the hexagon has endured for decades at least, and shows no signs of abating.

Other features can also be seen in this frame, notably the white storm to the lower right of centre. While dwarfed by the hexagon, the storm is still colossal – at about about 3500 km across, it is roughly twice as big as the largest hurricane experienced on Earth.

This view has been compiled taking into account the rotation of Saturn itself – any motion displayed is that of the hexagonal vortex and its constituent storms and features, and not planetary rotation – and hovers directly over Saturn's north pole. It comprises observations from the ultraviolet to the infrared, all of which have been coloured to emphasise differences in atmospheric composition and structure within and without the hexagon. Reds show infrared data, greens show near-infrared, and blues show ultraviolet. To the human eye, the hexagon would show up in shades of gold and blue.

Last Update: 04 September 2018

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