NASA released an unprecedented color-filtered moving image of Saturn showing a massive six-sided jet stream, known as the 'Hexagon,' on Wednesday, using footage collected by the Cassini Solstice mission. The movie, below, is the highest-resolution view of the hexagon to date. The Cassini mission, which launched in October of 1997 and started orbiting Saturn in 2004, was unable to capture clear images of the hexagon until 2012. NASA explains that this is due to the light conditions around Saturn, which were poor through 2011 but will continue to improve over the coming years:
"As we approach Saturn's summer solstice in 2017, lighting conditions over its north pole will improve, and we are excited to track the changes that occur both inside and outside the hexagon boundary," said Scott Edgington, Cassini deputy project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
The mission is set to end in 2017.
The Hexagon, which a member of the Cassini imaging team described as a hurricane that has lasted for at least decades, is a unique feature of Saturn made possible by the planet's smooth, gaseous surface. The storm is 20,000 miles across and generates winds of up to 200 mph.
Late last year, NASA published a number of stunning images captured by the Cassini mission, like the one below, of Saturn and its rings.
In other extra-terrestrial news, Scientists looking through NASA's Hubble Space Telescope announced yesterday that they have discovered signs of water on five exoplanets. Exoplanets exist outside of our solar system, and could possibly harbor earth-like conditions. The Saturn movie and Hubble-aided revelations coincide with a Congressional hearing on the NASA-led exploration for alien life, which we think is the best thing Congress has done in months. They may not have sent many humans into space lately, but the agency is still out there finding something new.
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