Saturns Hexagon

The research illustrates the front cover of the journal Geophysical Research Letters and has been highlighted by the Saturns Hexagon editor.

Materials provided by University of the Basque Country. Note: Content may be edited for style and length. Science News. Journal Reference : A. Hueso, S. Mendikoa, J. Rojas, J. Lillo, D. Gomez-Forrellad, C. The data comes from Cassini, which, a year after its demise plunging into Saturn's opaque atmosphere, is still leading us to new discoveries.

When the probe commenced its observations induring the southern summer it clocked a warm high-altitude vortex over the planet's south pole. Meanwhile, Saturn's north pole contains a famous hexagonal cloud patternbut we didn't think it had a vortex - until now.

A long-term study has found a similar vortex forming over the north pole as the north approaches summer, high up in the stratosphere. And, just like the jet-stream below it, the vortex is hexagonal. Either a hexagon Saturns Hexagon spawned spontaneously and identically at two different altitudes, one lower in the clouds and one high in the stratosphere, or the hexagon is in fact a towering structure spanning a vertical range of several hundred kilometres.

Ever since its discovery in the early Saturns Hexagon by the Voyager spacecraft, the hexagon has been a puzzle for planetary scientists. A lot of Saturns Hexagon have expressed interest in the origin of Saturn's north polar hexagon. The hexagon is a long-lived pattern in the clouds surrounding Saturn's north pole, which has been observed since the Voyagers passed by in and Unlike Jupiter, whose cloud bands are obvious in visible light, Saturn's cloud features are more subtle Saturns Hexagon visible wavelengths.

The cloud features pop to life when viewed at longer, thermal wavelengths, as in this Cassini VIMS mosaic:. The hexagon was first observed in Voyager images of Saturn, and immediately excited curiosity among scientists.

In the years following Voyager, an oft-cited explanation for the origin of the hexagon was that it was a standing wave in Saturn's atmosphere. In order for it to be persistent, something needs to be driving it; that something was postulated to be a large, solitary storm observed in Voyager images at a latitude just south of the hexagonal feature.

There were problems with this explanation, though, the chief one being that Cassini sees no such solitary storm, yet the hexagon is still there. In an article published in the April issue of IcarusAna Aguiar and her coauthors advance an alternative explanation, and test it in the laboratory. The explanation has to do with the speeds of winds in Saturn's atmosphere.

It begins with the following plot, showing how Saturn's wind speeds change with latitude. Editor's note: this was originally posted yesterday on Leigh Fletcher's blog and I thought it was awesome so I asked his permission to repost it. For the first time, amateur astronomers are capturing spectacular images of Saturn's bizarre north polar hexagon. Back inthe Cassini spacecraft was in its first high inclination phase around Saturn, and gave us our first glimpse of Saturn's north pole, hidden from Earth's view in the darkness of winter.

This was a rediscovery of the hexagon, first observed in reflected sunlight by Voyager in the early s Godfrey et al.

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