CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS

Agitators of the Atmosphere
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Agitators of the Atmosphere
PIA 08866

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  Two bright vortices roll across the cloud-lined face of Saturn, where winds howl at high speeds never experienced on Earth.

This view was acquired at about the same time as PIA08864 but the planet appears darker here. This is because the spectral filter used to acquire this image looks at a part of the spectrum where methane absorption in Saturn's atmosphere is stronger. Thus, photons do not penetrate as deep into the Saturn atmosphere as they do at the wavelengths observed in PIA08864. Since, more photons are absorbed here, the planet looks darker.

The icy particles composing the rings do not contain methane, and therefore appear bright relative to Saturn.

The image was taken using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 862 nanometers. The view was obtained using the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Dec. 13, 2006 at a distance of approximately 775,000 kilometers (481,000 miles) from Saturn. Image scale is 43 kilometers (27 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 Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit and the Cassini imaging team home page,

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Released: January 31, 2007 (PIA 08866)
Image/Caption Information

Alliance Member Comments
Dusty (Feb 17, 2007 at 6:28 AM):
Yeah, wind speeds of 1800 km/hour at the equator. wowsa. Im assuming that would make for a bad day on Earth..
DEChengst (Feb 14, 2007 at 1:56 PM):
IR band images cleary show that Saturn's atmosphere can be just as active as Jupiter's. Tracking this over time must make for some cool storm movies :)

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