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'Geometric' Saturn

From Cassini's archive, a new picture related to Saturn's clouds. The mission ended on Sept. 15 2017

Saturn's cloud belts generally move around the planet in a circular path, but one feature is slightly different. The planet's wandering, hexagon-shaped polar jet stream breaks the mold -- a reminder that surprises lurk everywhere in the solar system. 

This atmospheric feature was first observed by the Voyager mission in the early 1980s, and was dubbed "the hexagon". Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS, a made in Italy instrument) was first to spy the hexagon during the mission, since it could see the feature's outline while the pole was still immersed in wintry darkness. The hexagon became visible to Cassini's imaging cameras as sunlight returned to the northern hemisphere. 

This view looks toward the northern hemisphere of Saturn -- in summer when this view was acquired -- from above 65 degrees north latitude. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on June 28, 2017 using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 752 nanometers.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 862.000 kilometers from Saturn. Image scale is 52 kilometers per pixel.


Cassini (Credits: NASA)

The Cassini spacecraft ended its mission on Sept. 15, 2017.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency

ASI is one of the partners of the Cassini mission: on the basis of a cooperation agreement with NASA it has developed for Cassini the high gain antenna with the incorporation of a low-gain antenna (that ensure telecommunications with the Earth for the entire duration of the mission), the VIMS spectrometer, the radio-science subsystem (RSIS) and the radar which also uses the high-gain antenna. 

ASI has also developed for the Huygens spacecraft the HASI instrument which measured the physical properties of the atmosphere and Titan's surface.