Saturn's Hot Spot
This is the sharpest image of Saturn's temperature emissions taken from the ground; it is a mosaic of 35 individual exposures made at the W.M. Keck I Observatory, Mauna Kea, Hawaii on Feb. 4, 2004.
The images to create this mosaic were taken with infrared radiation. The mosaic was taken at a wavelength near 17.65 microns and is sensitive to temperatures in Saturn's upper troposphere. The prominent hot spot at the bottom of the image is right at Saturn's south pole. The warming of the southern hemisphere was expected, as Saturn was just past southern summer solstice, but the abrupt changes in temperature with latitude were not expected. The tropospheric temperature increases toward the pole abruptly near 70 degrees latitude from 88 to 89 Kelvin (-301 to -299 degrees Fahrenheit) and then to 91 Kelvin (-296 degrees Fahrenheit) right at the pole.
Ring particles are not at a uniform temperature everywhere in their orbit around Saturn. The ring particles are orbiting clockwise in this image. Particles are coldest just after having cooled down in Saturn's shadow (lower left). As they orbit Saturn, the particles increase in temperature up to a maximum (lower right) just before passing behind Saturn again in shadow.
A small section of the ring image is missing because of incomplete mosaic coverage during the observing sequence.