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10/30/2016

Saturn, The Chameleon?!

Two photos taken from NASA's Cassini spacecraft show the planet Saturn is changing colors! Check out the two different images below. 

The first was taken in November of 2012 and shows hints of blues and greens. 

Nov 12

The second was taken just last month in September of 2016 and has much lighter hues of yellows and oranges. 

Sept 16

They are both natural color images and were taken by the Cassini wide-angle camera. They show the changing appearance of Saturn's north polar region between 2012 and 2016.

Comparison

Scientists are investigating potential causes for the change in color of the region inside the north-polar hexagon on Saturn. 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. 

Researchers think the hexagon, which is a six-sided jetstream, might act as a barrier that prevents haze particles produced outside it from entering. During the polar winter night between November 1995 and August 2009, Saturn's north polar atmosphere became clear of aerosols produced by photochemical reactions -- reactions involving sunlight and the atmosphere. Since the planet experienced equinox in August 2009, the polar atmosphere has been basking in continuous sunshine, and aerosols are being produced inside of the hexagon, around the north pole, making the polar atmosphere appear hazy today.

Other effects, including changes in atmospheric circulation, could also be playing a role. Scientists think seasonally shifting patterns of solar heating probably influence the winds in the polar regions.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov.

I thought this was really neat! Especially to think about how long it a year is on Saturn with its changing seasons! If you have a topic you would like to see in a blog-- let me know! You can find me on social media with the links below! 

Have a great and safe Halloween! 

Katie McGraw's Facebook Page

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  -Meteorologist Katie McGraw

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