These two images, taken 10 minutes apart, demonstrate Cassini's ability to see the different depths of Saturn's immense atmosphere, using an array of specially designed spectral filters.
The image at the left was obtained using a filter sensitive to wavelengths of light at which methane in Saturn's atmosphere is moderately absorbing. The image at the right was taken in wavelengths where methane is strongly absorbing. At the more weakly absorbing wavelengths, sunlight is able to penetrate a bit deeper into the atmosphere than at the strongly absorbing ones, revealing features deeper down.
Several turbulent storms are visible in both images, indicating that these features extend from fairly deep to fairly high in the weather layer. The visible part of Saturn's atmosphere, where such storms and swirls churn, represents only a thin skin in the outermost part of the giant planet.
The images were taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on May 4, 2005, at a distance of approximately 1.2 million kilometers (800,000 miles) from Saturn. The image at the left was obtained using a combination of filters sensitive to wavelengths of polarized and infrared light centered at 705 and 728 nanometers, respectively. The image at the right was taken using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 890 nanometers. The image scale is 73 kilometers (45 miles) per pixel.
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.