Atmospheric features in Saturn's north polar region are revealed in spectacular detail in this Cassini image, taken in the near infrared spectral region, where methane gas is not very absorbing. The dark shadows of Saturn's rings drape across the planet, creating the illusion of atmospheric bands. Dots of bright clouds give the appearance that this is an active place.
The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide angle camera on Dec. 14, 2004, at a distance of 717,800 kilometers (446,100 miles) from Saturn through a filter sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 939 nanometers. The image scale is about 43 kilometers (27 miles) per pixel.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.