Skip to comments.Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Saturn's Hexagon Comes to Light
Posted on 01/21/2012 11:50:53 PM PST by SunkenCiv
Explanation: Believe it or not, this is the North Pole of Saturn. It is unclear how an unusual hexagonal cloud system that surrounds Saturn's north pole was created, keeps its shape, or how long it will last. Originally discovered during the Voyager flybys of Saturn in the 1980s, nobody has ever seen anything like it elsewhere in the Solar System. Although its infrared glow was visible previously to the Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn, in 2009 the mysterious hexagonal vortex became fully illuminated by sunlight for the first time during the Cassini's visit. Since then, Cassini has imaged the rotating hexagon in visible light enough times to create a time-lapse movie. The pole center was not well imaged and has been excluded. This movie shows many unexpected cloud motions, such as waves emanating from the corners of the hexagon. Planetary scientists are sure to continue to study this most unusual cloud formation for quite some time.
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Nature forms a lot of hexagons. That has to be a clue to Saturn’s structure or composition.
It’s been demonstrated in laboratories that it’s a result of fluid dynamics due to the difference in wind speeds at different latituds (Coriolis effect). The hexagon itself is a jet stream. The greater the difference in wind speeds in these experiments, the more sides seem to form.
Certainly the most awesomely mysterious phenomena in the observable universe.
What is really mind-boggling is that the first glimpse of the hexagon was one that was only partial view taken by the Voyager space craft in a flyby of Saturn and its north pole on November 12, 1980.
The partial view of the hexagon must have driven them crazy with curiosity. These same scientists believed Saturn's north pole hexagon to be meteorlogically temporary in nature never expecting it to still be there twenty five years later.
Fair enough. Is the number of sides always an even number? Anybody have a theory as to why the polygons form?
I’ve heard they’re like standing waves, anchored by pressure zones. Can’t really say, however. I’ve just done a little internet research myself.
Gotcha. It’s a really fascinating phenomenon, in any case. I wonder if it has any engineering applications?
I know some of you guys will greet this with a “facepalm” but try to look at it as a “blind squirrel finding a nut” (or in this case, a nut finding a nut.)
Richard Hoagland, for all his far out speculation, has documented this type of phenomenon not just 15 years ago on Saturn, but right here on Good Old Mother Earth.
Check out these links -
In this study, Hoagland does not stop at just documenting that the phenomenon exists, he explores the meteorology and underlying physics.
Corollary research on hyperD physics and the Sun -
I’ve no doubt someone like Dr. Hoagland, a former NASA advisor, can find similar phenomenon such as this in nature. However, when he claimed comet Elenin generated a tetrahedral force field when it was simply an image compression artifact instead, I lost whatever remaining respect I had for him. Especially when at the time, so many easily-decieved people thought it represented a doomsday event. Comet Elenin disintigrated due to a CME, by the way. Hardly something that could threaten aliens so seemingly advanced that they can generate tetrahedral force fields. Have I said enough? I think so.
I haven’t been listening to C2C for the last few years. I missed RCH’s comments on Elenin.
I point out the Earth meteorology for its similar patterns to those on Saturn, not because I have great faith in the author.
I guess I was just venting, then.
I understand completely.
It bothers me to no end when significant facts are touted and then tainted when presented by people of questionable integrity and motive.
Some of Hoagland’s stuff in insightful, bordering on brilliant. Then, just as you’re about to give him kudos, he cuts an intellectual fart.
I see interesting geometrical patterns in nature all the time. Just take a walk to the beach and look around. Pennies stack perfectly when you throw them in a jar. It’s nature. Patterns happen. Could you imagine how confusing the universe would be if everything looked different and there were no patterns?
Hexagons are the stackable polygons with the largest area-to-surface ratio. So, whenever a maximum of compartment space with a minimum of material forms, it forms a hexagon. Many crystals are hexagonal as a result of this. Also, bee hives, seed compartments in many types of flowers, etc.
(*stackable polygons: two-dimensional shapes with linear edges which can fit together without forming gaps between them. Regular polygons with more sides have higher area-to-surface ratios, but do not fit together.)
Of course, stackable polygons make no sense when there’s only one.
The other place one finds hexagons in “nature” are rings of atoms forming cyclical molecules, such as hexose sugars. They don’t really exist as hexagons in nature, but only in schematics, but they can form hexagon images.
My guess is that there’s some form of periodicity happening in the weather where the wavelength is close enough to the 1/6 (or 1/3) of the diameter of the longitude at which it lies that the cloud formations maintain a resonance to it as they rotate around the planet. But what on Saturn that is, I would have no idea.
I’ve never seen a geometrical pattern on the beach. Pennies aren’t part of nature, and they don’t stack perfectly in a pickle jar. The patterns we see stand out precisely because they are different than the general chaos around them.
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