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Faint filaments in Saturn's atmosphere.
Faint filaments in Saturn's atmosphere. Image credit: NASA/JPL/SSI.

In this photograph of Saturn, it's possible to see the faint filaments that circle around major storms on the planet. scientists still don't know what these filaments are; they might be material connecting two storms together after they've split up. The could also represent wind flow in Saturn's atmosphere. Cassini took this image on July 6, 2005 when it was 2.4 million km (1.5 million miles) away from the planet.

Faint filaments in Saturn's atmosphere spiral around two oval-shaped storms in a direction opposite to the winds which rotate around Southern Hemisphere hurricanes on Earth. One storm is seen near the lower right, and the other is near the lower left above a much darker storm.

Atmospheric scientists do not yet fully understand what these filaments are, but some possible explanations have been proposed. The filaments might represent material connecting the spots if the two have recently split from a single storm. The spirals could also represent wind flow in the atmosphere. Further investigation by Cassini imaging scientists is likely to clarify the precise nature of the filaments.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 6, 2005, at a distance of approximately 2.4 million kilometers (1.5 million miles) from Saturn using a filter sensitive to wavelengths of Infrared light centered at 750 nanometers. The image scale is 14 kilometers (9 miles) per pixel.

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 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 operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov. The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org.




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