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Saturn's Filaments And Vortices

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
Pasadena CA (JPL) Aug 16, 2005
Faint filaments in Saturn's atmosphere spiral around two oval-shaped storms in a direction opposite to the winds which rotate around Southern Hemisphere hurricanes on Earth. One storm is seen near the lower right, and the other is near the lower left above a much darker storm.

Atmospheric scientists do not yet fully understand what these filaments are, but some possible explanations have been proposed.

The filaments might represent material connecting the spots if the two have recently split from a single storm. The spirals could also represent wind flow in the atmosphere. Further investigation by Cassini imaging scientists is likely to clarify the precise nature of the filaments.

This image (top) was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 6, 2005, at a distance of approximately 2.4 million kilometers (1.5 million miles) from Saturn using a filter sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 750 nanometers. The image scale is 14 kilometers (9 miles) per pixel.

Impressions From Cassini

Saturn's turbulent atmosphere is reminiscent of a Van Gogh painting in this view from Cassini. However, unlike the famous impressionist painter, Cassini records the world precisely as it appears to the spacecraft's cameras.


Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
The feathery band that cuts across from the upper left corner to the right side of this scene has a chevron, or arrow, shape near the right. The center of the chevron is located at the latitude (about 28 degrees South) of an eastward-flowing zonal jet in the atmosphere.

Counter-flowing eastward and westward jets are the dominant dynamic features seen in the giant planet atmospheres. A chevron-shaped feature with the tip pointed east means that this is a local maximum in the eastward wind and a region of horizontal wind shear, where clouds to the north and south of the jet are being swept back by the slower currents on the sides of the jet.

This image (bottom) was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 6, 2005, at a distance of approximately 2.5 million kilometers (1.5 million miles) from Saturn using a filter sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 727 nanometers. The image scale is 14 kilometers (9 miles) per pixel.

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Cassini Flies By Saturn's Tortured Moon Mimas
Pasadena CA (JPL) Aug 08, 2005
On its recent close flyby of Mimas, the Cassini spacecraft found the Saturnian moon looking battered and bruised, with a surface that may be the most heavily cratered in the Saturn system.



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