The spinning vortex of Saturn’s north polar storm resembles a deep red rose of giant proportions surrounded by green foliage in this false-color image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Measurements have sized the eye at a staggering 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) across with cloud speeds as fast as 330 miles per hour (150 meters per second).
This image is among the first sunlit views of Saturn’s north pole captured by Cassini’s imaging cameras. When the spacecraft arrived in the Saturnian system in 2004, it was northern winter and the north pole was in darkness. Saturn’s north pole was last imaged under sunlight by NASA’s Voyager 2 in 1981; however, the observation geometry did not allow for detailed views of the poles. Consequently, it is not known how long this newly discovered north-polar hurricane has been active.
The Cassini–Huygens is a robotic spacecraft launched in 1997 for the purpose of studying Saturn. Since arriving in 2004 the orbiter’s mission has been extended twice. It most recently studied the Great White Spot, a massive storm that occurs at roughly 30 year intervals that is so large it can be seen from Earth with a simple telescope. (via this isn’t happiness)
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