Saturn’s North Pole Hexagon Has Changed Its Color

Posted: Oct 25 2016, 11:39pm CDT | by , Updated: Oct 26 2016, 9:04pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 

Saturn’s North Polar Hexagon has Changed its Color
Credit: NASA/JPL
 

Mysterious hexagon has changed its color from blue to gold. The color change could be the result of seasonal changes on the planet.

Almost 30 years ago, scientists discovered an intriguing six-sided structure on Saturn’s north pole. The structure, named hexagon, is unlike anything seen on any other planet.  NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has been constantly studying Saturn and its unique feature and is attempting to provide an explanation of this mysterious structure. 

Using wide-angle camera installed on Cassini, NASA scientists had taken new images of Saturn’s north pole last month and they were surprised to found that the region was looking different. Saturn's north pole hexagon has changed its color from blue to gold. While scientists are still working out the cause of change in color, the most probable reason could be seasonal changes on the planet. The summer is slowly approaching for Saturn.

“The color change is thought to be an effect of Saturn's seasons. In particular, the change from a bluish color to a more golden hue may be due to the increased production of photochemical hazes in the atmosphere as the north pole approaches summer solstice in May 2017.” NASA blog explains. 

Saturn goes through many seasonal changes like other planets. From November 1995 to August 2009, Saturn was experiencing winter polar darkness. There was no sunlight at that time. Therefore, photochemical haze caused by the interaction of sunlight and atmosphere was also absent during the winter. 

When Saturn's north polar atmosphere was clear of aerosols, particles were not produced and logically could not reach to hexagonic get stream. As a result of it, the unique structure remained blue. Particles began to build inside the hexagon when the sun shone down and turned it into gold.

 “Since the planet experienced equinox in August 2009, the polar atmosphere has been basking in continuous sunshine and aerosols are being produced inside of the hexagon, around the north pole, making the polar atmosphere appear hazy today.” Blog says.

The images taken on November 2012 and September 2016 clearly show the difference. 

 

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