Saturn's atmosphere comes alive with a multitude of dark vortices swirling through the southern hemisphere.
Vortices are long-lived features that are part of the general circulation of Saturn's atmosphere. Vortices are thought to be caused by the shear between eastward- and westward-flowing jets -- the alternating bands flowing past each other in the atmosphere. The vortices can last for months or years and probably grow by merging with other vortices until a few dominate a particular zone of wind shear between two jets.
The vortex at upper right is one of the largest vortices on Saturn.
The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Feb. 16, 2006 at a distance of approximately 3.2 million kilometers (2 million miles) from Saturn. The image scale is 19 kilometers (12 miles) per pixel.