Saturn

The Cassini mission has greatly improved our understanding of the Saturnian system and has returned many stunning images. The Cassini spacecraft will continue to orbit Saturn and return data until at least 2010. Hence, Cassini will be observing Saturn during its Northern Spring Equinox in 2009 and there is great anticipation in how the loss of sunlight from the South Pole might affect the South Polar Vortex (SPV) and how the return of sunlight to the North Polar region might affect the North Polar Hexagon (NPH) and warm North Polar Vortex. In particular, once sunlight returns to the North Pole it will be possible to map the NPH in visible light at the cloud top level and compare its structure with that seen by Voyager 2, and compare this with the structures determined at the 2 bar to 3 bar level by Cassini VIMS, and above the clouds up to the tropopause by Cassini CIRS.

In addition to continuing Cassini observations, ground-based observations continue to improve in terms of both spatial and spectral (e.g., Greathouse et al. 2005,2006) resolution, and the use of revised laboratory reference data should lead to a steadily improving understanding together with ever more advanced dynamical analysis, as described in the previous section.

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