Lanes of cold gas in Saturn’s mostly hydrogen atmosphere brush past each other, often creating spectacular patterns like those seen here. The whirling shapes near the bottom of this view suggest turbulent interactions between latitudinal regions of different densities moving at different speeds, while the long, linear shapes in the lanes above suggest more stable conditions in the flow there.
The image of Saturn’s southern hemisphere was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera on Dec. 5, 2004, at a distance of approximately 3.4 million kilometers (2.1 million miles) from Saturn through a filter sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 727 nanometers. The image scale is 40 kilometers (25 miles) per pixel. Contrast was enhanced to aid visibility of features in the atmosphere.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov . For images visit the Cassini imaging team home page http://ciclops.org .
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute