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The Many Faces of Saturn

At left is a composite of various Saturn images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope over half of Saturn's nearly 30 year orbital year. Below, we compare and contrast two images of Saturn at nearly equal sun angles. The top image was taken in 2009. The bottom image was taken in 1996. Aside from the changing direction of the sun (note that the shadows of the moons on the top image are up and to the right while the bottom image has moon shadows up and to the left) there are also numerous differences in the features present in the cloud belts of Saturn. In the bottom image, the Sun has been warming the northern hemisphere for 15 years. In the top image, the southern hemisphere has been warmed by the sun for the past 15 years. Belt colors and widths vary along with turbulent features in the equatorial zones.
Above: Hubble image of Saturn taken in 2009 just months before ring-plane crossing.
Above: Hubble image of Saturn taken in 1996, approximately one year after ring-plane crossing.