Astronomy Picture of the Day
June 15, 2013

North Polar Spring
North Polar Spring

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI and Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF for the additional process. and color.

The North Pole of the Gas-Giant Planet Saturn, now illuminated by the fresh lights of the incoming Spring, is finally revealed in this image taken by the NASA - Cassini Spacecraft on November 27, 2012. As you know, the North Pole of Saturn has been hiding for a long time from the gaze of the Cassini's Imaging Cameras, and that circumstance was due to the fact that it was still Wintertime in (and therefore a deep darkness all over) the Northern Hemisphere of the Ringed Planet when the Spacecraft arrived in the Saturnian System in the AD 2004.

A Hurricane-like Storm circling Saturn's North Pole at about 89° North Latitude is also well visible inside the famous "Hexagon" Feature, which scientists think is a wandering Jet-Stream that whips around the North Pole of Saturn at a relatively constant mean speed of about 220 miles per hour (such as a little more than 354 Km per hour). Such a Jet-Stream it is folded into a six-sided shape because the Hexagon is a Stationary Wave that guides the path of the Gases existing inside the Jet itself. The Hexagon borders occur at about 77° North Latitude and the Feature is wider than two (flat) Earths. Last, but not least, a little section of the Rings of Saturn can also be seen in the upper right corner of the image.

This frame was acquired with the NASA - Cassini Spacecraft Wide-Angle Camera at a distance of approximately 260.000 miles (such as a little more than 418.000 Km) from the top of the Saturnian Clouds and at a Sun-Saturn-Cassini Spacecraft, or Phase, Angle of 96°. Image scale is roughly 18 miles (such as 28,968 Km) per pixel. For another image of the Hexagon and the Hurricane-like Storm that encircles the North Pole of Saturn, please refer to the APOD of December, 29, 2012.

This frame (which is a NASA - CASSINI Spacecraft Original Natural Color frame published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal and identified by the serial n. PIA 14945) has been additionally processed, magnified, contrast enhanced and then re-colorized, according to an educated guess carried out by Dr Paolo C. Fienga (LXTT-IPF), in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye would actually perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - Cassini Spacecraft and then looked outside, towards the North Pole of Satun), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team. Different colors, as well as different shades of the same color, mean, among others, the existence of different Elements in the Upper Atmosphere of Satun, each having a different Albedo (---> Reflectivity) and Chemical Composition.

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