TECH

The First True-Colour Photos Of Saturn's Polar Vortex Are Spectacular

It spans 1,200 miles.

16/05/2017 16:52 BST | Updated 16/05/2017 16:58 BST

During its 12 year exploration of Saturn, NASA’s Cassini probe has returned some spectacular photography. Among the most striking photos are those of the planet’s polar vortex, a persistent hurricane at its north pole.

Now Sophia Nasr, an astro-particle physicist at UC Irvine, has created the first true colour images of the formation. Its cerulean centre comes from a scattering of sunlight, the same process that makes Earth’s sky blue.

Nasr produced the image by merging photographs taken using blue, green and red filters, with only a little extra tweaking of contrast, Discovery reported.

The astro-physicist isn’t alone in transforming Cassini’s black and white images into colour. Jason Major, a graphics designer, has also produced colour images of the gas giant’s polar vortex, which spans 1,200 miles.

Cassini’s 12-year journey is due to come to an end in September after it completes its final dive.

NASA scientists are set upon ditching the craft in Saturn’s atmosphere before it runs out of fuel, ensuring it won’t crash into one of the planet’s 53 moons.

It’s thought that Enceladus and Titan might harbour life, and a satellite from Earth poses a major contamination risk.

NASA/JPL-CALTECH/SSI
Raw photographs of Saturn's atmosphere.
NASA/JPL-CALTECH/SSI
Raw photographs of Saturn's atmosphere.
NASA/JPL-CALTECH/SSI
Raw photographs of Saturn's atmosphere.