Saturn’s famous hexagon may tower above the clouds

A surprising feature emerging at Saturn's northern pole.

This colorful view from NASA's Cassini mission is the highest-resolution view of the unique six-sided jet stream at Saturn's north pole known as the hexagon
This colorful view from NASA's Cassini mission is the highest-resolution view of the unique six-sided jet stream at Saturn's north pole known as "the hexagon." Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University

Another long haul study about utilizing information from NASA‘s Cassini shuttle has uncovered an astounding feature rising at Saturn’s northern pole as it nears summertime: a warming, high-altitude vortex with a hexagonal shape, much the same as the celebrated hexagon seen further down in Saturn‘s clouds.

At the point when Cassini arrived at the Saturnian system in 2004, the southern hemisphere was enjoying summertime, while the northern was amidst winter. The shuttle saw an expansive, warm high-height altitude at Saturn’s southern pole yet none at the planet’s northern pole.

The new examination reports the first glimpses of a northern polar vortex forming high in the environment, as Saturn’s northern hemisphere approached summertime. This warm vortex sits several miles over the clouds, in the stratosphere, and uncovers a startling amazement.

Leigh Fletcher of the University of Leicester, lead author of the new study said, “The edges of this newly-found vortex appear to be hexagonal, precisely matching a famous and bizarre hexagonal cloud pattern we see deeper down in Saturn’s atmosphere. The finding is intriguing because it suggests that the lower-altitude hexagon may influence what happens above and that it could be a towering structure hundreds of miles in height.”

Saturn’s cloud levels have most of the planet’s climate, including the previous north polar hexagon. This is a long-lasting wave potentially tied to Saturn’s rotation, it is a type of phenomenon also seen on Earth, as in the Polar Jet Stream.

Its properties were revealed in detail by Cassini, which observed the feature in multiple wavelengths, from the ultraviolet to the infrared, using instruments including its Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS). Though, during the beginning of the mission, this instrument could not peer farther up into the northern stratosphere, where temperatures were too cold for reliable CIRS infrared observations, leaving these higher-altitude regions relatively unexplored for many years.

Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist said, “The mystery and extent of the hexagon continue to grow, even after Cassini’s 13 years in orbit around Saturn. I look forward to seeing other new discoveries that remain to be found in the Cassini data.”