NASA's Cassini probe orbiting Saturn took the vortex photos yesterday and relayed them back to earth the same day, according to a statement released by the government agency. The photos reveal a swirling storm that is reminiscent of something like Hurricane Sandy, which rocked the U.S. East Coast four weeks ago.
According to SPACE.com, the tempest is located in a strange hexagonal cloud vortex at Saturn’s north pole that was first discovered by the Voyager spacecraft in the early 1980s and sighted more closely by Cassini since then. The six-sided feature was reportedly formed by he path of a jet stream flowing through the planet's atmosphere.
"Cassini's recent excursion into inclined orbits has given mission scientists a vertigo-inducing view of Saturn’s polar regions, and what to our wondering eyes has just appeared: roiling storm clouds and a swirling vortex at the center of Saturn's famed northern polar hexagon," Cassini scientists wrote in an online update.
Experts suggest that storms like this are common on many of the solar system’s planets, including Saturn.
"These phenomena mimic what Cassini found at Saturn's south pole a number of years ago," the scientists wrote.
Cassini, a robotic spacecraft sent to the Saturn system, has studied the planet and its many natural satellites since arriving there in 2004.
Reports indicate that probe has logged more than 3.8 billion miles (6.1 billion kilometers) and made some major discoveries about the Saturn system, including detecting the presence of hydrocarbon lakes on the moon Titan and spewing water geysers on the moon Enceladus.
"Eight-and-a-half years into our history-making expedition around the ringed planet and we are still astounded by the seemingly endless parade of new planetary phenomena," the mission scientists wrote.