Beautiful Photograph of a Hurricane… On the North Pole of Saturn


Photographs of storm systems as seen from airplanes or satellites aren’t too uncommon these days, but have you ever seen one that looks like this? Probably not, because this photograph is out of this world — literally. It’s titled “The Rose,” and shows the spinning vortex of a gigantic hurricane on the surface of Saturn.

The false-color photograph was captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft over the north pole of our solar system’s sixth planet.

Scientists snapped multiple photographs of the hurricane using different filters sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light. They then selected certain colors for each wavelength and then combined the images to create this color photo of the scene. (The process is similar to how early color photos were produced using black-and-white film).


Scientists calculate that the storm seen in the photograph is roughly 1,250 miles across. By comparison, the shortest distance between the East and West Coast of the United States is about 2,100 miles (from San Diego, CA to Jacksonville, FL). The winds in the vortex are also traveling as fast as 330 miles per hour!

NASA says this photograph is one of the first sunlit images of Saturn’s north pole ever captured by Cassini’s cameras. When the spacecraft (and its camera) first arrived at the planet in 2004, the north pole was in darkness, as it was northern winter at that time.

Here’s a wider-angle view of Saturn’s north pole (and its storms):


You can find a higher-resolution version of “The Rose” here.

(via NASA via Laughing Squid)

Image credit: Photograph by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

  • Melo

    Sorry to sound like a conspiracy theorist… BUT… how can this technology be so reliable and capable of travelling that unbelievable distance over that period of time and be sending back imagery of this calibre? I’m perplexed? I think 90% of what NASA puts out to be bulls**t. It just logically doesn’t seem possible or feasible that a satellite (powered by what exactly?) has been effectively in operation for a decade built on technology older than that yet beaming data that far.

    Confusing since my iPhone can barely complete a phone call and wifi is spotty to this day.

    Any NASA experts want to weigh in here? How does a layman believe this and how can anyone possibly prove or disprove this isn’t just a CGI for NASA marketing.

  • harumph

    Wow. But what would the real colors actually look like to the naked eye?

  • cspan chatroom

    You’d see blue down through red and then some shading of black and white. All other false-colors are outside our spectrum sensitivity.

  • harumph

    It was actually taken by Stanley Kubrick, who was reanimated by NASA and stationed on the surface of a massive sentient obelisk that has remained hidden in the Cassini Division for thousands of years.

  • cspan chatroom

    Not to sound like a jerk but… what were you doing in science class in High School? When shows like Discovery Channel and NOVA are on do you just blow right past them looking for a good sports game? What on Earth does your cell phone have to do with the “caliber” of NASA’s contractors?

    You have to understand that Japanese and American electronic consumer product manufactures build in something called “planned obsolescence”. That way they can keep making money off you indefinitely. They don’t want your iPhone to work forever. I mean haven’t you figured out how Antivirus Software companies work yet?

    However, NASA needs a zero-tolerance for error and milspec standards. Believe it or not their stuff works “perfectly”or it doesn’t fly. Yes there are stupid things like human-error during in-flight stages like miscalculations etc. But the hardware is flawless. No manufacturers want to loose a NASA contract.

    So what’s fueling Cassini? It’s called RTG’s (three radioisotope thermoelectric generators). They are nuclear based on Plutonium. You do know our nuclear submarines can stay underwater literally forever and only limited by food for humans. Since there are no humans on Cassini… no brainer.

    It also uses a new form of radio telemetry which makes it able to convey data back to earth. Yes it still takes a few minutes due to the sheer distance but it gets there with all data packets intact.

    BTW Cassini is finding new Saturn moons… about 7 so far. So what would be the motive to fake all of this? Could it be simply that it’s just over your head? I mean can you even explain how the inner workings of your car’s engine works? I mean down to the sub-atomic level… You know it works. But HOW it works baffles most humans.

  • XJ

    Yes, just because you don’t have access to technology capable of doing it, NOBODY does. Because NASA is clearly spending billions of dollars developing cameras that are up to the standards of 100 dollar commercial smartphones. Perfect logic.

  • Bartek Nowakowski

    Nah you don’t sound like a conspiracy theorist at all.

  • harumph
  • FKR

    Yeah, and who took that photo of Cassini in front of Saturn?!? That’s proof right there that this is all an elaborate hoax!! :-p

  • Dan Howard

    erm… yeah these guys don’t super-glue an iPhone to a kite and rely on a cellphone service to text back these kinda photos.

    their technology is just a tad more advanced

  • keats

    Being a gas-giant, Saturn does not have a “surface”.

  • Froggy

    You don’t sound like a conspiracy theorist.
    You sound like an uneducated moron.

  • Chris

    I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but did you eat paint chips growing up, or live under a power line?

  • Chris

    The technical specs of the Cassini mission are all freely available online, no need to rely on anyone else to explain it to you.

  • Arcangel Tabris Loquendero

    Shinji was here! XDDD