Saturn’s hexagon is a hexagonal cloud pattern that has persisted at the North Pole of Saturn since its discovery in 1981. At the time, Cassini was only able to take infrared photographs of the phenomenon until it passed into sunlight in 2009, at which point amateur photographers managed to be able to photograph it from Earth.
The structure is roughly 20,000 miles (32,000 km) wide, which is larger than Earth; and thermal images show that it reaches roughly 60 miles (100 km) down into Saturn’s interior.
Read an explanation of how Saturn’s hexagon works here: [x]
Saturn’s fascinating geometry
From the images produced from Voyager and Cassini, scientists were able to develop models that commensurated with the data obtained. Here’s what they found :
- The Hexagon is associated with an eastward zonal jet moving at more than 200 mph.
The cause of the Hexagon is believed to be a jet stream, similar to the
ones that we experience on Earth. The path of the jet itself appears to
follow the hexagon’s outline.
- The Hexagon rotates at roughly the same rate as Saturn’s overall rotation.
While we observe individual storms and cloud patterns moving at
different speeds within the Hexagon, the vertices of the Hexagon move at
almost exactly the same rotational speed as that of Saturn itself.
How do we know this ?
The setup is simple :
Researchers placed a 30-liter cylinder of water on a slowly spinning table. ( The water representing the Saturn’s atmosphere )
Inside this tank, they placed a small ring that spun more
rapidly than the cylinder. This created a miniature artificial “jet
stream” that the researchers tracked with a green dye.
The results of which follow below
These models however are still unable to dictate the exact phenomenon that is happening on Saturn, but surely they offer insight into the bizarre phenomenon that dwells in the celestial.
Bonus – Color Change
These images from the NASA’s Cassini spacecraft show the changing appearance of Saturn’s north polar region between 2012 and 2016.
The change is thought to be an effect of Saturn’s season ( Yes! Saturn has seasons ). Scientists are still probing into the causes for this change.
The universe is a beautiful place.
Have a great day!