December 16, 2004
Polarized Light from Jupiter's Poles
January 23, 2001
These frames taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft show that infrared light from Jupiter's north and south poles is polarized, which indicates that the size of cloud aerosol particles in those regions is likely smaller than the particles found in clouds near the equator.
Cassini's wide-angle camera took these images with a near-infrared filter useful for seeing methane, combined with filters that sense whether the light is polarized. The pole appears bright in one image and dark in the other, showing that the light from those regions is polarized. Polarized light is most readily scattered by aerosols. These images indicate that the aerosol particles at Jupiter's poles are small and likely consist of aggregates of even smaller particles, whereas the particles at the equator and covering the Great Red Spot are larger. Images like these will allow scientists to ascertain the distribution, size and shape of aerosols, and consequently, the distribution of heat, in Jupiter's atmosphere.
Cassini 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 Cassini mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.
Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
For higher resolution, click here.