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NASA spacecraft captures color video of 20,000 mile-wide jetstream at Saturn's north pole

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NASA Cassini Saturn storm image (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)
NASA Cassini Saturn storm image (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

NASA announced this week that its Cassini spacecraft has managed to capture a first-of-its-kind film of the monstrous jet stream roiling at Saturn's north pole. The short GIF, using color filters, shows currents of air moving at 200 miles per hour in what's known as "the hexagon," a system unique to Saturn measuring about 20,000 miles across the planet's surface. The massive, Australia-sized hurricane at its center features prominently in the recording. According to NASA, there's no weather system in the solar system like it — and it has probably been active for decades, if not longer.


"The hexagon is just a current of air, and weather features out there that share similarities to this are notoriously turbulent and unstable," said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member affiliated with the mission. "A hurricane on Earth typically lasts a week, but this has been here for decades — and who knows — maybe centuries."

The film was made possible by the sun illuminating the hexagon's interior in late 2012. Cassini managed to capture the weather activity using its high-resolution cameras over a 10-hour span. This new film may not be the last — better views of the hexagon may be possible when Saturn's summer begins in 2017.