This atmosphere close-up shows bright clouds in Saturn's northern hemisphere being sheared apart. The clouds at the bottom of the image are tilted and stretched because the wind at those lower latitudes is moving much faster to the east than the wind at the higher latitudes near the top of the image, hence the shear.
This appearance suggests that these bright eddies are passive tracers of the atmosphere's motion -- they appear, probably as a result of upwelling due to convection from below, and then they are sheared apart.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Feb. 16, 2006, at a distance of approximately 3.3 million kilometers (2 million miles) from Saturn. The image scale is 19 kilometers (12 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.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org .
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute