Sci-Tech

Saturn's north pole looks like a watercolor painting

Saturn's rings aren't the only noteworthy circles around the planet. NASA's Cassini spacecraft gets a good look at its beautiful banded north pole.

Cassini gets a lovely view of Saturn's north pole.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

NASA may be built on science, but the space agency also likes to muse about the artistic side of the universe.

The Cassini spacecraft snapped an image of Saturn's north pole in September, leading NASA to wax poetic in a release on Monday: "Saturn's north polar region displays its beautiful bands and swirls, which somewhat resemble the brushwork in a watercolor painting."

Saturn's iconic hexagon is on display in the image. The bands in varying shades of gray come from different air flow speeds and cloud heights. "Where they meet and flow past each other, the bands' interactions produce many eddies and swirls," NASA notes. Those swirls and wavering lines between the bands give the ringed planet a dreamy, watercolor-style look.

The planets rings are just barely visible on either side of the picture. Cassini was located 890,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers) from Saturn when it took the image.

The mission, a joint effort from NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency, launched back in 1997. Cassini is still studying Saturn and its many moons, but the mission is scheduled to end in 2017 when the spacecraft will plunge into the planet's atmosphere.