Astronomy Picture of the Day
January 2, 2014

The Eye of the Storm
The Eye of the Storm

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

The Gigantic Vortex found at Saturn's North Pole - and seen here in Absolute Natural Colors - takes on the kind of "menacing look" of something that, probably, could only have been born from the imagination of Edgar Allan Poe. But really - and of course - what we see here, in today's APOD, it's just another example of the amazing (NASA People like to say "mesmerizing"...) Meteorology of Saturn. The "Eye" of this immense Cyclone is about 2000 Km (such as approx. 1242 miles) wide - meaning (just to give you a reference between what you see here and the Terrestrial average dimensions of these kinds of Atmospheric Phenomena) more than 20 times larger than most of the Cyclones that usually occur on our Home Planet Earth.

This view is centered on Clouds located at approx. 89° North Latitude and 109° West Longitude; North is up and rotated 33° to the right (Dx). The image was taken with the NASA - Cassini Spacecraft Narrow-Angle Camera on June 14, 2013, using a Spectral Filter sensitive to Wavelengths of Near-InfraRed Light centered at 750 nanometers and it view was acquired at a distance of approximately 476.000 miles (such as a little less than 766.046 Km) from the Top of the Saturnian Clouds and at a Sun-Saturn-CASSINI Spacecraft, or Phase, Angle of 45°. Image scale is roughly 3 miles (such as about 4,82 Km) per pixel.

This frame (which is an Original NASA - CASSINI Spacecraft's b/w and NON Map-Projected image published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 17145) has been additionally processed, contrast enhanced, magnified to aid the visibility of the details, Gamma corrected and then colorized - according to an educated guess (or, if you wish, an informed speculation) carried out by Dr Paolo C. Fienga - 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 Polar Regions of the Gas-Giant Planet "Saturn"), 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 other things, the existence of different Elements (Gases) present in the Atmosphere of Saturn, each having a different Albedo (---> Reflectivity) and Chemical Composition.

Note: it is possible (but we, as IPF, have no way to be one-hundred-percent sure of such a circumstance), that the actual luminosity of Saturn - as it is in this frame - would appear, to an average human eye, a little bit lower than it has been shown (or, better yet: interpreted) here.

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