Unveiling the Hexagon
February 20, 2009
Saturn's north pole hexagon, seen here in an image from the Cassini spacecraft, has been around for awhile. It was seen in Voyager images in the early 1980s, in ground-based telescopic images in the 1990s, and now with Cassini.
More and more of this unusually shaped feature will be revealed to Cassini's high resolution cameras as spring slowly comes to the northern hemisphere in the planet's 29-year orbit.
The entire hexagon was imaged in thermal infrared by Cassini in Oct. 2006 (see Saturn's Active North Pole).
The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Jan. 21, 2009 using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 752 nanometers. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 930,000 kilometers (578,000 miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 54 degrees. Image scale is 52 kilometers (32 miles) 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, Colo.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute