These two Cassini images taken 23 minutes apart show many vortices and turbulent wakes in Saturn's atmosphere. They also show the overall filamentary structure of the flow in the atmosphere. Many of the narrow cloud streaks that extend and curl over great distances maintain their integrity, rather than mixing with neighboring air parcels. This type of behavior is a characteristic of what scientists call "two-dimensional turbulence".
In two-dimensional turbulence, the patterns in flowing fluids, such as the gases in an atmosphere, can behave rather like the patterns seen in a thin, soapy or oily film floating on water. These systems have little relative thickness and involve very different physics than three-dimensional turbulent systems.
Contrast in the images was enhanced to aid the visibility of atmospheric features.
The images were taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Aug. 20, 2005, at a mean distance of approximately 484,000 kilometers (301,000 miles) from Saturn. The image scale is about 26 kilometers (16 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 operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute