Cassini Views Saturn’s Uppermost Cloud Layers

New Cassini Spacecraft Image of Saturn

Saturn’s uppermost cloud layers. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

This newly released image of Saturn’s uppermost cloud layers was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on August 23, 2014.

Nature is an artist, and this time she seems to have let her paints swirl together a bit.

What the viewer might perceive to be Saturn’s surface is really just the tops of its uppermost cloud layers. Everything we see is the result of fluid dynamics. Astronomers study Saturn’s cloud dynamics in part to test and improve our understanding of fluid flows. Hopefully, what we learn will be useful for understanding our own atmosphere and that of other planetary bodies.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 25 degrees above the ring plane. The image was taken in red light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on August 23, 2014.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 127 degrees. The image scale is 7 miles (11 kilometers) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, 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, D.C. 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.

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