As northern winter ends on Saturn and the Cassini spacecraft's view of the north pole improves, the swirls and eddies visible until now only in the south are gradually coming into view in the northern hemisphere.
Scientists will be looking for the north polar hexagon that was seen by Voyager. The hexagon was a jet stream, deflected by a storm into a six-lobed pattern, that circled the planet at 76 degrees north latitude. This picture shows extensive storm activity and gives scientists hope that the hexagon is still there.
The shadows of the rings of Saturn cut across the lower part of the image.
The image was taken in polarized infrared light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Dec. 8, 2005, at a distance of approximately 3.2 million kilometers (2 million miles) from Saturn. The image scale is 37 kilometers (23 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