Mysterious Hurricane at Saturn’s North Pole

Andy Ingersoll of Cassini imaging team narrates short fascinating video, “Mysterious Hurricane at Saturn’s North Pole.”

Cassini has been in orbit around Saturn for 9 years and we’ve been following this hexagon which surrounds the north pole. It’s bigger than 2 Earths, and it’s a wandering jet stream. But it’s been winter in the north. So we have not been able to see what’s at the center of the hexagon. But now it’s spring. And what we’ve found at the center of the hexagon is a Saturn hurricane.

This is a view from directly over the north pole, which is made possible by the orbit of the spacecraft which is now taking us over the pole. The winds are flowing at 300 miles an hour, which is 4 times hurricane force. The fluffy white clouds in the center are about the size of Texas. We can use special filters to measure the heights of the clouds. The red are low clouds and the green are high clouds.

We call it a Saturn hurricane because it has the eye, it has the high winds, but it’s different from an Earth hurricane because it’s locked to the north pole. And unlike a terrestrial hurricane there’s no ocean underneath. And that’s one of the puzzles we’re trying to figure out.

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