CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS
Saturn's 'Watercolor' Swirls

Saturn's north polar region displays its beautiful bands and swirls, which somewhat resemble the brushwork in a watercolor painting.

Each latitudinal band represents air flowing at different speeds, and clouds at different heights, compared to neighboring bands. Where they meet and flow past each other, the bands' interactions produce many eddies and swirls.

The northern polar region of Saturn is dominated by the famous hexagon shape (see PIA11682) which itself circumscribes the northern polar vortex – seen as a dark spot at the planet’s pole in the above image – which is understood to the be eye of a hurricane-like storm (PIA149466).

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 20 degrees above the ring plane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Sept. 5, 2016 using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 728 nanometers.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 890,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 53 miles (86 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: November 14, 2016 (PIA 20507)
Image/Caption Information
  Saturn\'s \'Watercolor\' Swirls
PIA 20507

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Alliance Member Comments
NeKto (Nov 16, 2016 at 7:06 AM):
it is images like this that have me wanting to replace Cassini with another camera/instrument platform, or find a way to refuel Cassini. i want the images and science to continue.
and i want to find out what the heck is making the hexagon!