NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is giving astronomers a view of changes in Saturn’s vast and turbulent atmosphere as the planet’s northern hemisphere summer transitions to fall as shown in this series of images taken in 2018, 2019, and 2020 (left to right).
“These small year-to-year changes in Saturn’s color bands are fascinating,” said Amy Simon, planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “As Saturn moves towards fall in its northern hemisphere, we see the polar and equatorial regions changing, but we are also seeing that the atmosphere varies on much shorter timescales.” Simon is lead author of a paper on these observations published March 11 in Planetary Science Journal.
“What we found was a slight change from year-to-year in color, possibly cloud height, and winds – not surprising that the changes aren’t huge, as we’re only looking at a small fraction of a Saturn year,” added Simon. “We expect big changes on a seasonal timescale, so this is showing the progression towards the next season.”