CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS

Swirls and Shadows
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Swirls and Shadows
PIA 18311

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  Saturn's surface is painted with swirls and shadows. Each swirl here is a cloud system, reminding us of the dynamic nature of Saturn's atmosphere.

Images taken in the near-infrared (like this one) permit us to peer through Saturn's methane haze layer to the clouds below. Scientists track the clouds and weather systems in the hopes of better understanding Saturn's complex atmosphere - and possibly Earth's as well.

This view looks toward Saturn and the sunlit side of the rings from about 17 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Feb. 8, 2015 using a near-infrared spectral filter centered at 752 nanometers.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 810,000 miles (1.3 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 47 miles (76 kilometers) per pixel.

The Cassini Solstice Mission is a joint United States and European endeavor. 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 was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. 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 Solstice Mission visit, and

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Released: May 4, 2015 (PIA 18311)
Image/Caption Information

Alliance Member Comments
enceladus5 (May 20, 2015 at 11:01 AM):
What a remarkable picture. Thanks Cassini!!!
NeKto (May 8, 2015 at 9:25 AM):
I keep wondering what the scale of depth is when we look at Saturn. how deep is the methane haze? how tall are some of those cloud structures? how much atmosphere would you have over your head at one Earth atmosphere pressure? what is the temperature and pressure where the cloud tops are forming? are these things that are just not known?

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