NASA Shares Images of a Color-Changing Vortex on Saturn

New pictures of Saturn’s north pole show a continuing trend of color change. Formally the region was a golden hue but there looks to be a large expanding area of blue. Scientists believe the planet’s seasons can explain the changes.


While the images have not been officially validated by NASA, scientists are weighing in on possible explanations. “The color change is thought to be an effect of Saturn’s seasons. In particular, the change from a bluish color to a more golden hue may be due to the increased production of photochemical hazes in the atmosphere as the north pole approaches summer solstice in May 2017,” NASA said in a statement released in 2016.

There was another striking shift in color between images taken in 2012 and 2016: increased exposure to the sun allows compounds in the atmosphere to react and create a haze, changing the colors shown in photos. Since Saturn is much further from the sun, its seasons are much longer. Summer in the north pole began in 2009, so the reactions have been amassing with the longer sun exposure.

Cassini will continue to capture images through September as it continues on its final route.

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