CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS
Vortex and Rings

Vortex and Rings
PIA 18274

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  Cassini captures three magnificent sights at once: Saturn's north polar vortex and hexagon along with its expansive rings.

The hexagon, which is wider than two Earths, owes its appearance to the jet stream that forms its perimeter. The jet stream forms a six-lobed, stationary wave, which wraps around the north polar regions at a latitude of roughly 77 degrees North.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 37 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on April 2, 2014 using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 752 nanometers.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.4 million miles (2.2 million kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 43 degrees. Image scale is 81 miles (131 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: July 7, 2014 (Happy 74th Birthday, Ringo Starr!) (PIA 18274)
Image/Caption Information

Alliance Member Comments
NeKto (Aug 22, 2014 at 6:41 AM):
whenever i have a bad day, i can always find an image here to reduce the gloom.
robcole84 (Jul 8, 2014 at 9:17 AM):
Beautiful. Is it hexagonal just because Saturn is so large and the winds do not meet? Jupiter also has a hexagonal shape at the pole.
NeKto (Jul 7, 2014 at 10:15 AM):
Gotta love it!