CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS
Captain's Log
March 13, 2002

Surpises in the Jovian Stratosphere

It has been a year since the conclusion of Cassini's flyby of Jupiter. The imaging scientists have been busy since then preparing for rendezvous with Saturn, and examining the results of the Jupiter encounter. At present, Cassini is roughly midway between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn, rushing to meet its appointment with the ringed planet on July 1, 2004.

Today, after a long hiatus, the Cassini Imaging Team is pleased to release a movie composed of images taken of Jupiter in the ultraviolet and showing startling and unexpected activity high in the jovian stratosphere (Imaging Diary: Jupiter). We were fortunate to capture the birth and development of a dark spinning vortex in the north jovian auroral region resembling the development of stratospheric ozone holes on Earth. These disturbances appear to arise solely within the confines of the circumpolar high-altitude region of both planets. The similarity begs the question: Is there a lesson for us Earthlings, keen to understand our own atmosphere and the protection it affords us, in the study of the atmospheres of the giant planets?

We will have this question in mind as we attempt to understand the origin of this new phenomenon observed for the first time by Cassini's Imaging Science experiment.

Carolyn Porco
Cassini Imaging Team Leader
Space Science Institute
Boulder, CO

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