PIA21348: Circles and Hexagons

Circles and Hexagons


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 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 (see PIA09185 ). The hexagon became visible to Cassini's imaging cameras as sunlight returned to the northern hemisphere. For more views of Saturn's hexagon, see PIA10486 and PIA11682 .

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 536,000 miles (862,000 kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 32 miles (52 kilometers) per pixel.

Background Info:

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. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and https://www.nasa.gov/cassini . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at https://ciclops.org .

Cataloging Keywords:

Name Value Additional Values
Target Saturn Sun
System Saturn
Target Type Planet Sun
Mission Cassini-Huygens Voyager
Instrument Host Cassini Orbiter
Host Type Orbiter Flyby Spacecraft
Instrument Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS)
Detector Wide Angle Camera
Extra Keywords Atmosphere, Grayscale, Infrared, Visual
Acquisition Date
Release Date 2017-10-09
Date in Caption 2017-06-28
Image Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Source photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA21348
Identifier PIA21348