NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft captured this new image of Saturn with its wide-angle camera on December 2, 2016.
The north pole of Saturn sits at the center of its own domain. Around it swirl the clouds, driven by the fast winds of Saturn. Beyond that orbits Saturn’s retinue of moons and the countless small particles that form the ring.
Although the poles of Saturn are at the center of all of this motion, not everything travels around them in circles. Some of the jet-stream patterns, such as the hexagon-shaped pattern seen here, have wavy, uneven shapes. The moons as well have orbits that are elliptical, some quite far from circular.
This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 26 degrees above the ring plane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on December 2, 2016, using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 890 nanometers.
The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 619,000 miles (996,000 kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 37 miles (60 kilometers) per pixel.