Gigglebit: Cassini camera captures swirly Saturn (photo)

19 Nov 2014

Cloud layers above Saturn. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Gigglebit is Siliconrepublic’s daily dose of the funny and fantastic in science and tech, to help start your day on a lighter note.

With Gigglebit, we turn the spotlight on humorous and/or amazing content about science and tech, because sometimes the lighter side should be taken seriously, too.

Today, we share an image released by US space agency NASA of what appears to be the surface of the planet Saturn, as photographed by a camera aboard the Cassini spacecraft. But there’s more to the image than meets the eye.

“What the viewer might perceive to be Saturn’s surface is really just the tops of its uppermost cloud layers,” NASA explained.

“Everything we see is the result of fluid dynamics.”

The view in the photo looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 25 degrees above the ringplane, NASA said. The image was taken in red light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on 23 August 2014, at a distance of about 1.8m kilometres (1.1m miles) from Saturn.

NASA added that astronomers study Saturn’s cloud dynamics to test and improve our understanding of fluid flows and ultimately, our own atmosphere and that of other planetary bodies.

Here is the image in its entirety:

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic