Picture: Hubble snaps new portrait of Saturn

Hubble snaps new portrait of Saturn

When Saturn was approaching closest to Earth this year on June 20, the Hubble Space Telescope captured the view.

The hexagon-shaped feature around Saturn’s north pole was first spotted by NASA’s Voyager 1 in 1981. It’s captured in the new Hubble image. The mysterious structure has no twin at Saturn’s south pole. Instead, the pattern is due to the planet’s high-speed jet stream, according to the Space Telescope Science Institute.

And the hexagon is larger than it looks — four Earths could fit inside it.

But Saturn’s appearance varies. Some features come and go, like a large storm by the north pole spotted by Hubble last year. This year, it’s nowhere to be seen. But a super “thunderhead,” as astronomers call them, is visible in the center of Saturn.

Lakes on Saturn’s moon may be explosion craters.

Just like Earth, Saturn goes through its seasons as well. Hubble spotted Saturn during its summer. The planet’s vivid amber color is due to a smog-like haze occurring during its summer where solar ultraviolet radiation creates reactions in the atmosphere.

And much like on Jupiter, the colorful bands are due to differently composed clouds driven by winds to stack at different levels.

But the seasons last a little longer here, like in “Game of Thrones.” Saturn’s seasons can last over seven years.

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