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The infrared images captured by the Keck I telescope at the W.M. Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island suggest a warm polar vortex -- a large-scale weather pattern likened to a jet stream on Earth that occurs in the upper atmosphere. It's the first such hot vortex ever discovered in the solar system. The team of scientists say the images are the sharpest thermal views of Saturn ever taken from the ground. Their work will be a published in Friday's editions of the journal Science.
Saturn, which takes many earth years to orbit the sun, just had its summer solstice in 2002.
"If the increased southern temperatures are solely the result of seasonality, then the temperature should increase gradually with increasing latitude, but it doesn't," Orton said. "We see that the temperature increases abruptly by several degrees near 70 degrees south and again at 87 degrees south.
"A really hot thing within a couple degrees of the pole is something I don't understand at all," he said.
Scientists may learn more from the data coming from the infrared spectrometer on the Cassini spacecraft currently orbiting Saturn, information that is expected to complement the Keck discovery, Orton said.
I would expect Cassini to be there for half decade, just like Galileo.
Originally posted by Jehosephat
Nice thing Cassini is still there and might be able to take some other measurements.