Ultraviolet South Pole

Photojournal: PIA05439

December 16, 2004

Ultraviolet South Pole

August 20, 2004

Full-Res: PIA05439

This ultraviolet view shows wavy cloud bands near Saturn's south polar region. Though the region has some visible features, strong contrast between light and dark cloud bands is notably absent, as are bright and dark spots.

The eye is drawn to a bright wedge near the lower-left limb (apparent edge) of the planet. That wedge falls in a latitude band that borders a darker latitude band a little closer to the pole. Viewing the limb of the planet in ultraviolet light allows scientists to study the high part of the atmosphere (the stratosphere). Scientists can discern from this image that the stratosphere in this latitude band is relatively pure hydrogen and helium and contains very little of the stratospheric haze that causes darkening closer to the pole.

This view was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera on July 21, 2004, at a distance of 6.4 million kilometers (4 million miles) from Saturn. The image scale is 38 kilometers (23 miles) per pixel. The image was taken using a spectral filter centered at 298 nanometers, and reveals different details in the gas giant's atmosphere than those seen in longer wavelengths. Contrast was slightly enhanced to bring out features in the atmosphere.

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 Cassini-Huygens 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 team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and the Cassini imaging team home page, http://ciclops.org .

Image Credit:

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute