CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS
Dance of the Clouds

Myriad dark vortices, some large and some small, twirl in the high southern latitudes of Saturn. At left, the south polar vortex spins at the center of it all.

This view looks toward the planet's southern hemisphere from about 47 degrees below the equator.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on June 23, 2008 using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 939 nanometers. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 468,000 kilometers (291,000 miles) from Saturn. Image scale is 25 kilometers (15 miles) per pixel.

The Cassini Equinox 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 Equinox Mission visit, and

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Released: August 4, 2008 (PIA 10439)
Image/Caption Information
  Dance of the Clouds
PIA 10439

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Alliance Member Comments
Harry (Oct 3, 2008 at 4:58 PM):
Sorry, a little more: Using my simplistic techniques (ruler held to my computer screen and a few calculations based on the camera's square 1024 pixel array - laugh if you want), the vortex in the upper right-hand side of the image is a little less than half the size of our Moon. Seeing this in person would have made me dizzy.
Harry (Oct 3, 2008 at 4:31 PM):
I continue to be amazed by the sense of scale. Even though the wide angle camera is not really "wide angle" in the same sense as a modern SLR, Saturn still looks overwhelmingly large viewed from ~80,000 km farther than the Moon is to the Earth. My head has a hard time grasping Saturn's reality.
bruno.thiery (Aug 10, 2008 at 4:11 AM):
I simply LOVE these sights.
They are awesomely strange, and have such cold beauty!
I wonder how this region will look like, just 15 years from now, when it will again receive the sunlight it will be deprieved soon? All blue, I guess.