Saturn’s Hexagon Seen In Colorful Motion

Posted: Jul 18 2016, 4:33am CDT | by , Updated: Jul 18 2016, 10:54pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Saturn’s Hexagon Seen in Colorful Motion
Credit: NASA/JPL

NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows unique structure on Saturn with a hexagonal shape in false colors and in motion.

The unique six-sided structure on Saturn’s north pole, known as “the hexagon,” was discovered some thirty years ago, but still remains a mystery. 

Nothing like this hexagonal structure has ever been seen on any planet in the universe. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has been studying the ringed planet up close for more than a decade and has created a movie showing Saturn’s hexagon in enhanced colors and in motion. The movie provides one of the most detailed views of clouds structures residing within the hexagon. A massive hurricane is spinning in the center of the north pole while numerous small vortices can also be seen on the move. The largest vortices in the hurricane are about 2,200 miles wide and are twice the size of vortices ever found on Earth. The eye of the hurricane is about 50 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth. 

Saturn’s hexagon is actually a cloud pattern surrounding planet’s north pole. It is about 20,000 miles in diameter and penetrates roughly 60 miles down into Saturn’s atmosphere. 

False colors have been added to the movie to make it easier to understand the difference among various types of haze particles and their concentrations suspending in the atmosphere.

“The hexagon is just a current of air, and weather features out there that share similarities to this are notoriously turbulent and unstable," said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member. "A hurricane on Earth typically lasts a week, but this has been here for decades -- and who knows -- maybe centuries."

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