Earlier this month (August 4, 2014), NASA released this new image of Saturn’s hexagon – a persisting hexagonal cloud pattern around the planet’s north pole – taken by the orbiting Cassini spacecraft. The sides of the hexagon are about 13,800 kilometers (8,600 miles) long, which is longer than the Earth’s diameter. Measurements have sized the “eye” – the vortex at the center of the swirling hexagon – at a staggering 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) across with cloud speeds as fast as 330 miles per hour (150 meters per second).
The image above was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on April 2, 2014. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.4 million miles (2.2 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 8 miles (13 kilometers) per pixel.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.