May 7, 2008
Scientists have discovered a wave pattern, or oscillation, in Saturn's atmosphere only visible from Earth every 15 years. The pattern ripples back and forth like a wave within Saturn's upper atmosphere. In this region, temperatures switch from one altitude to the next in a candy cane-like, striped, hot-cold pattern.
The temperature "snapshot" shown in these two images captures two different phases of this wave oscillation: the temperature at Saturn's equator switches from hot to cold, and temperatures on either side of the equator switch from cold to hot every Saturn half-year.
The image on the left was taken in 1997 and shows the temperature at the equator is colder than the temperature at 13 degrees south latitude. Conversely, the image on the right taken in 2006 shows the temperature at the equator is warmer.
These images were taken with NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility in Mauna Kea, Hawaii.