(For a more "true-color" view of the same area, click here.)
"We did a double take when we saw this vortex because it looks so much like a hurricane on Earth," said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member at Caltech. "But there it is at Saturn, on a much larger scale, and it is somehow getting by on the small amounts of water vapor in Saturn's hydrogen atmosphere."
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Much larger than any hurricane ever seen on Earth, the storm over Saturn's north pole is 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) wide with wind speeds up to 330 mph (150 meters per second).
Fueled by internal heat and powerful eddies, and with no underlying land masses to affect them, winds on the rapidly-rotating Saturn can reach over 1,100 mph (1,800 km/h). And with nowhere else to go, this polar hurricane will remain at the planet's pole indefinitely... it was likely already there when Cassini arrived in 2004.
Positioned directly over Saturn's north pole, the storm also lies at the heart of a larger and similarly long-lived atmospheric structure called the hexagon, a curiously geometric configuration of jet stream winds.