HAIL THE HEXAGON | It’s a mark on the planet Saturn, like a tattoo

SOLAR SYSTEM |  Saturn’s hexagonal polar jet stream is the shining feature of almost every view of the north polar region of Saturn. The region, in shadow for the first part of the Cassini mission, now enjoys full sunlight, which enables Cassini scientists to directly image it in reflected light.

Although the sunlight falling on the north pole of Saturn is enough to allow us to image and study the region, it does not provide much warmth. In addition to being low in the sky (just like summer at Earth’s poles), the sun is nearly ten times as distant from Saturn as from Earth. This results in the sunlight being only about 1 percent as intense as at our planet..

Hail the hexagon on the north pole of the planet Saturn


This view looks toward Saturn from about 31 degrees above the ring plane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Jan. 22, 2017 using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 939 nanometers.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 560,000 miles (900,000 kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 33 miles (54 kilometers) per pixel.

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 the California Institute of Technology 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.

Screenshot showing a side view of Cassini’s final orbits at Saturn. | Photo by NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory – Caltech / Erick Sturm

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.

May 08, 2017
via NASA http://ift.tt/2prpfwB

New Movie Shows Cassini’s First Dive over Saturn

A new movie sequence of images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows the view as the spacecraft swooped over Saturn during the first of its Grand Finale dives between the planet and its rings on April 26.

The movie comprises one hour of observations as the spacecraft moved southward over Saturn. It begins with a view of the swirling vortex at the planet’s north pole, then heads past the outer boundary of the hexagon-shaped jet stream and beyond.

As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made its first-ever dive through the gap between Saturn and its rings on April 26, 2017, one of its imaging cameras took a series of rapid-fire images that were used to make this movie sequence. The video begins with a view of the vortex at Saturn’s north pole, then heads past the outer boundary of the planet’s hexagon-shaped jet stream and continues further southward.

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/Hampton University