The spinning vortex of Saturn's north polar storm resembles a deep red rose of giant proportions surrounded by green foliage in this false-color image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Measurements have sized the eye at a staggering 2,000 km (1,250 miles) across with cloud speeds as fast as 150 m per second (330 miles per hour).
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.
The images were taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on 27 Nov. 2012, using a combination of spectral filters sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light. The images filtered at 890 nm are projected as blue. The images filtered at 728 nm are projected as green, and images filtered at 752 nm are projected as red. In this scheme, red indicates low clouds and green indicates high ones.
The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 419,000 km (261,000 miles) from Saturn and at a sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 94 degrees. Image scale is 2 km (1 mile) per pixel.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute