Monday, November 24, 2014

Saturn's North Pole Mystery...!

Today for Monday Mystery we have something that is out of this world...literally!

It seems that Saturn has a shape at it's north pole that isn't often found in nature. All of the other planets have their own mysteries that we haven't discovered yet, but this one is amazing to look at, that's for sure!

Saturn’s Mysterious North Pole Hexagon
By B.G. Medul on Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When we talk of space, we almost instantly think of globes and spheres and random-shaped debris floating around. So it came as a surprise when scientists discovered what seems to be a giant hexagon cloud formation at Saturn’s north pole. Apparently, the gas giant has more to offer than just its infamous rings, but no one is really certain what is causing the weather pattern.

Saturn’s north pole hexagonal weather pattern was first observed when scientist combined the images captured by Voyager spacecrafts in the Saturn flyby missions in the early 1980s. It is a rotating cloud formation about 24,000 kilometers (15,000 mi) across. The sides of the hexagon are estimated at about 14,000 kilometers (8,600 mi) in length. Basically, it is a giant storm that can envelope four Earths inside. Another spacecraft, the Cassini, orbited and observed Saturn since 2004 but only thermal and infrared images were available then until the 15-year Saturnian dark winter ended and the springtime came in 2009.

Higher-resolution images from the Cassini spacecraft revealed that the hexagon goes down deep into the atmosphere, some 95 kilometers (60 mi) below the visible clouds from space and houses many smaller storms and a local cloud system inside. The sides of the hexagon are walls and jet streams of wind going as fast as 325 kilometers per hour (200 mph). Other features observed are concentric circles and a giant vortex in the middle not unlike Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. From the images, it appears that it has a rotational period the same as Saturn’s, a little over 10 hours and 30 minutes.

The reason for the existence of the hexagon still baffles scientists up to this date. Answers regarding the driving conditions that force the streams to form the walls are still unclear. It is also unclear how the winds maintain their momentum at such weird motion track, and ultimately, how and when the hexagon will fade from the planet’s surface. It seems that after the first time Voyager caught a glimpse of it, it still remains constant with the rotational pattern of the planet. It is significantly unchanged 30 years it was first photographed. Since it was only observed recently, we don’t know if it persisted longer than the famed Red Spot (the Great Red Spot was first observed in 1831). Saturn’s tilt relative to Earth, the 30-year-long revolution around the Sun, and the long winter nights kept the shape from our curious telescopes, so it is always necessary to employ a spacecraft like the Cassini to orbit directly above the pole.

What is notable about this formation is that the opposite pole of Saturn has an entirely different cloud pattern. On its south pole lies a great storm with what appears to be an enormous eye.

There is no other planet in the solar system that has this kind of display. Currently, scientists are still exploring the characteristics of the structure. They are presently into observing the waves that are created when the wind streams hit the hardest at the corners of the hexagon. They are also looking into a dark spot that shifts position inside the perimeter. Saturn’s hexagon is one of the few natural hexagon-shaped objects known, joining honeycomb, snowflakes, rare cloud formations, and possibly some diatoms.

Almost enough to make you dizzy, isn't it? Wonder what other mysteries are waiting out there for us to find?

Coffee out on the patio this morning. The sun is shining and temps are on the way up to the 70's.


Chickenmom said...

Interesting - never knew it took Saturn 30 years to go around the sun!
Just finished raining here and it its 58. I'll bring surprise goodies for all!

linda m said...

That is just soooo cool. I'm sure there are loads of other mysteries out there waiting for us to discover. I'm signing up for the Starship Enterprise. Still raining here but 45 degrees. I'll take your sun and 70's.

Mamahen said...

Fascinating..just never know what's out there, or what we'll learn at the Hemit's.....61n windy here on the way back to near freezing tonight .....but it was a nice break ;))

JO said...

This is really interesting. I wonder if this might have something to do with our weather changes. So much can be learned from this and other things too.

We hit 29 last night. Time to start putting a sweater on Fred for first outs
Pass the pot please

Sixbears said...

I love these puzzles, especially great big hard to ignore ones.

Heavy rain washing the snow away.

Dizzy-Dick said...

There has to be someplace to put the ratchet to turn the planet, and that looks like the nut that fits into a huge, huge socket. . .

HermitJim said...

Hey Phyllis...
So many unknowns about our neighbors in space.

Thanks for the goodies and the visit this morning!

Hey Linda M...
It is nifty, isn't it? Gotta love this kind of real life mystery.

Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Mamahen...
Just trying to keep everyone interested! So much to learn about!

Thanks for dropping in today!

Hey Jo...
Gotta keep Mr. Fred warm to do his outdoor stuff. Either that, or get him a giant litter box!

Thanks, sweetie, for the visit this morning!

Hey Sixbears...
Some of these puzzles are just too big to ignore. Makes me want to learn more!

Thanks for stopping in today!

Hey Dizzy...
Works for me, as long as I don't have to do the turning!

Thanks for the visit this morning!